Regrettably, a lot of people including journalists, as well as scientists have very little information about this. Much to the relief of those trying to figure out more about how e-cigs operate, understanding how they work isn’t rocket science.
E-cigarettes are also known as vapes which gives a clear indication of how it works. The clouds generated by these e-cigarettes aren’t smoke; it is actually an aerosol which is made up of tiny droplets of water (e-liquid in this case) and vapour. The electronic cigarette and the substance present in the device help to create this aerosol in the tank.
To simplify the explanation, let us split the description of an e-cigarette into three components:
The first one is the battery, the second one is the tank, and final component is atomizer. The aforesaid components are available in different sizes and types and usually you will find these two, or sometimes even all three components combined in a single unit. Note that if all three components aren’t combined the device won’t work. Why? Here’s what all these three components do:
The device is powered by the electricity provides to the e-cigarette. The entire device is useless without the battery. The battery is the component that decides how long you will be smoking at a time. E-cigarettes draw their juices either from a lithium polymer or a lithium ion battery. These two types of batteries are important for e-cigarettes because they can pack a lot of electricity in a small space. Notably, e-cigarettes consume more power than most of the electronic portables available on the market.
Small Vape Battery – All vapes that are small in size and looks like a traditional cigarette, plus the popular models like pen style cigarettes are backed by an in-built battery. Given that they have in-built batteries, the users have to throw the whole device away and replace it (after 300 cycles of charging it) once the battery drains out.
Large e-cigarette battery – Like small vapes even some large e-cigarettes have batteries in built and these devices are called mods. However, these batteries store a lot more power and tend to be bigger because of which they outlive other device. Once the battery completes enough cycles, it won’t even deliver a decent charging time. By the time the device reaches this stage, you’d notice that the buttons have worn out.
Thankfully, most mods come with replaceable batteries. These are available in different sizes but mostly in all modern device companies incorporate 18650 size. There are no prizes for guessing that removable batteries have their own advantages. One of the advantages is that if the battery is drained out and you are in a transit, you can simply replace the battery and keep using mod. Meanwhile, you can quickly recharge the drained-out battery in a standby charger.
Every e-cigarette comes with a tank that stores the liquid (flavour or smoke oil). In the models like the one produced by cigalike, the tank can be small in size; the cartridge could be disposable plastic while others have a refillable tank. Before May 2017 the capacity of the tank was pretty huge and they use to offer variants of tank but thanks to the controversy-plagued EU law, the companies have to limit the tank to only 2ml.
These e-liquid tanks usually adopt a complex design. The major problem faced by the designer is to create a tank that allows the air in without letting the e-liquid leak out. The ideal way to achieve this is to place the coil above the tank while hanging down the wicks into the liquid. In small clearomiser tanks this can be seen quite often. Usually this is used in a pen style device but even large ones use it too.
However, other tanks have the coil placed at the bottom which is enclosed by the chimney connected to the mouthpiece. The air holes are at the bottom of the tank and the wicks lead out via small holes in the chimney. As far as there is enough liquid present in the tank that covers the wick holes, there is a room inside the tank that prevents any leakage through the airholes.
The coil of wire or the metal strip helps to produce the vapour which is wrapped around a wick. In the past, the wicks were made out of silica, steel mesh, and even ceramic but the modern wicks are usually made out of cotton material. The atomizer is basically the simplest part of the device, the wick carries the liquid to the coil that is heated by the battery and vapour comes out.
Some of the atomizers can be rebuilt simply by assembling your own coil and wick. Others can be unscrewed and replaced every week or two as they are disposable units.
Summary of how does it all work together?
A completely set up e-cigarette will have a charged battery, a tank filled with e-liquid (also known as juice), and a coil.
When you press the switch to turn it on (or take a puff directly, which works in the cheap models) the battery kickoff the power and starts to delivering power to the coil. As the coil is made using a thin metal, it heats up quickly and so does the e-liquid which is in contact with the coil. Within a second or two, the coil gets surrounded by small but dense cloud of vapour.
When the user drags a puff, air is drawn via air holes and over the coil. This helps to pull the vapour up to the mouthpiece and allows more e-liquid to evaporate. Until the airflow stops or it is taken over by the wick’s capacity to feed it liquid, the coil will continue to create vapour. Users usually inhale a single puff for about five to six seconds, and with modern e-cigarettes it creates a lot of vapour.