As of today there are three waves of devices, resulting in differences from appearance and technology. Some believe an electronic cigarette or personal vaporizer is merely an LED light, battery, cartridge, and liquid housing. However the history of these devices since inception around 2003, have quickly sparked new methods of vaporization. To get the best ecigarettes, one must understand the types and development of these devices.
First wave devices e-cigarettes commonly look like tobacco cigarettes and are thus called “cigalikes”. They may be designed as a single unit that contains a battery, coil and filling saturated with e-juice in a single tube to be used and disposed of after either the battery dies or the juice is used up. They may also be designed as a reusable device with a battery and cartage called a cartomiser. This is so the battery and cartage can be separated to allow the battery to be charged when it dies or the cartage replaced when the e-juice is used up. The battery may contain an electronic airflow sensor whereby activation is triggered simply by drawing breath through the device, while other models employ a power button that must be held during operation. Charging is commonly done with a USB charger that the battery attaches to. They also have a cigarette pack-shaped portable charging case, which contains a larger battery capable of charging e-cigarettes. Reusable devices can come in a kit that contains a battery, a charger, and at least one cartridge. Varying nicotine concentrations are delivered to users because of cartomizer, e-juice mixtures, and battery manufacturing differences.
Second wave devices are commonly used by more experienced users. These devices are commonly larger overall and look less like tobacco cigarettes. They commonly have larger non removable batteries with higher capacity. They are commonly charged with a USB charger that the battery attaches to. Some battery sections have a USB port for recharging and can be used while they are charging or a “passthrough”. They are usually two part devices meant to be reused and so reduce the cost of operation. Second wave e-cigarettes commonly use a tank or a “clearomizer”. The tanks are meant to be refilled with bottles of e-juice. They can also be used with cartomizers. Some cheaper batteries use a microphone to activate them.
Third wave devices include mechanical mods and variable voltage devices though both are commonly called “mods” are the battery section of the device. Mechanical and variable devices are commonly either cylindrical or a box. A box can hold larger and sometimes multiple batteries. The battery is installed in the mod and can be removed. This allows the user to change the battery when it is depleted. Variable devices often have a USB connector for recharging and can be used while they are charging as a “pass-through”. Mechanical mods do not because they do not contain circuitry. Third wave devices commonly use rebuildable atomizers allowing users to choose the wicking material. Handmade coils can be installed in the atomizer to increase vapor production. Hardware in this wave is sometimes modified to increase flavor. This wave can also use clearomizers. The size of the battery section allows the use of larger tanks that hold more e-liquid.
Clearomizers. These are a different style e-cigarette with a top-coil clearomizer. Silica fibers are hanging down freely inside of the tank, drawing e-liquid through a capillary to a coil that is located directly under the mouthpiece. Clearomizers or “clearos”, not unlike cartotanks, use a clear tank in which an atomizer is inserted. Unlike cartotanks, however, no poly-foam material can be found in them. There are a lot of different wicking systems employed inside of clearomizers to ensure good moistening of the wick without flooding the coil. Some rely on gravity to bring the e-liquid to the wick and coil assembly (bottom coil clearomizers for example) whereas others rely on capillary action and to some degree the user agitating the e-liquid while handling the clearomizer (top coil clearomizers). The coil and wicks are typically inside a prefabricated assembly or “head” that is replaceable by the user and can contain either single or dual coils. Present day clearomizers commonly have adjustable air flow control. They also hold up to 5ml of e-liquid. Tanks can be either plastic or glass. Some flavours of e-juice have been known to crack plastic clearomizer tanks.
Cartomizers. A “cartomizer” or “carto” is partially an atomizer surrounded by a liquid-soaked poly-foam that provides an e-liquid holder. They can have up to four coils and each coil will increase vapor production. When used in a tank, the cartomizer is inserted in a plastic, glass or metal tube and holes or slots have to be punched on the sides of the cartomizer to allow liquid to reach the coil. It is usually disposed of once the e-liquid acquires a burnt taste, which is usually due to an activation when the coil is dry or when the cartomizer gets consistently flooded because of behavior of the wick. Most cartomizers are refillable even if not advertised as such. Cartomizers can be used on their own, or in conjunction with a tank that allows more e-liquid capacity. In this case the portmanteau word of “cartotank” has been coined.
Atomizer. An e-cigarette atomizer with the coil (heating section), generally consists of a small unit responsible for vaporizing e-liquid, as well as a wicking material that pulls liquid in. Along with a battery, the atomizer is the central component of every personal vaporizer. A small length of wire is coiled around the wicking material and then connected to the positive and negative poles of the device. When activated the resistance wire (or coil) quickly heats up thus creating a mist from the liquid, which is then inhaled by the user. Atomizers may experience issues if misused due to possible batter complications. Wicking materials vary greatly from one atomizer to another but silca fibers are the most commonly used. “Rebuildable” or “do it yourself” atomizers can use silica, cotton, rayon, hemp, bamboo, and other synthetics as wicking materials. A wide array of atomizers and e-liquid container combinations are available: Many atomizers have populated the market.
Rebuildable atomizers. A rebuildable atomizer or an RBA is an atomizer that allows the user to assemble or “build” the wick and coil themselves instead of replacing them by a typical atomizer “head”. They are generally considered advanced devices. They also allow the user to build atomizers at any desired electrical resistance. The materials needed to “rebuild” the atomizers are usually much cheaper than the usual prefabricated replaceable wick and coil assemblies used in clearomizers. These atomizers are divided into three main categories; rebuildable tank atomizers (RTAs), rebuildable dripping atomizers (RDAs), and rebuildable dripping tank atomizers (RDTAs). Rebuildable tank atomizers (RTAs) are similar to clearomizers in that they use a tank or container to hold and bring liquid to the coil. A “top cap” to cover the coils with airflow holes and a hole at the top where a mouth piece can be attached. This allows more wick to be used and helps stop leaking. Some atomizers have heat sink fins to help dissipate the heat from the coil before it reaches the mouth piece or “drip tip”. Rebuildable dripping tank atomizers (RDTAs) are a combination of both RTAs and RDAs. They usually consist of a RDA build deck with a tank over the deck held up by a spring. The user pushes down on the mouth piece and liquid is then dripped onto the coils and wick. This is unlike a RTA that continuously feeds liquid to the wicks.