How Do E-Cigarettes Work?
The electronic cigarette is a device that allows you to essentially simulate the sensation of smoking a cigarette, by inhaling atomized vapor rather than burning smoke. You hold it in your mouth and you inhale, just like you would with a “normal” cigarette. Upon exhalation, what remains is a smoke-less vapor, which unlike traditional cigarettes, accommodates non-smokers and sensitive indoors areas with no odor, no staining, and no second hand smoke.
How do e-cigarettes work? Well, when you inhale the vapor, the actual liquid solution that created the vapor is held in the nicotine cartridge. It’s usually a mixture of hygroscopic substances (such as propylene glycol), water, and pure nicotine (optional). When heated by the atomizer the solution turns into a smoke-like vapor, which you inhale straight into your lungs. If nicotine is present in your electronic cigarette, your lungs will absorb the nicotine just like they do when smoking a traditional cigarette. Electronic cigarettes also provide a variety of flavors. There are flavored solutions such as regular tobacco or menthol, vanilla, coffee, cola, fruit. All add to the sensation of smoking your electronic cigarette for maximum satisfaction.
E-cigarettes come in two designs. You can have a two-part design; which is actually an improvement and a more recent addition to the market, or you can have a three-part design, which is all that existed when e-cigs first came out. The three-part design usually consists of a solution cartridge, often replaceable on one end; a chamber with the atomizer and microprocessor in the middle; and the length of the e-cig being the lithium-ion battery that powers the device. In most electronic cigarettes there is also an LED light at the furthest tip (which lights up when the smoker draws). When the smoker draws, a pressure sensor detects the action and the microprocessor releases the solution from the cartridge into the atomizer so that it may be inhaled. The more recent, two-part design for e-cigs includes both the cartridge and atomizer in the “filter” and the battery and the microprocessor on the “length.” There is a great variety in how various manufacturers set up the components; some sell cartridges with the solution inside, and you have to buy new cartridges each time you run out. Others will sell you refillable cartridges which you can fill with your choice of e-cigarette liquid (which you also have to buy). Some companies offer both options. The former option is more convenient; the latter is less expensive.
When you draw on your electronic cigarette, the process which takes place to get the vapor into your lungs happens in whichever parts of the E-cig holds the atomizer and solution. In a two-part design, this would be the “filter.” When you draw, the pressure sensor in the E-cig senses you are inhaling, and it signals the microprocessor to release the solution from the cartridge and into the atomization chamber. The heating vapor coil then heats the solution until it turns into the vapor that is inhaled into the lungs. The LED light on the tip lights up whenever the sensor detects inhalation, the solution vapor then flows into the lungs, and the “smoker” is then free to exhale the resulting vapor.
This is how e-cigarettes work. Although the concept first appeared in a 1963 patent acquired by Herbert Gilbert, limitations in technology at that time meant that the E-Cig that we know today wasn’t actually invented until 2003 (by Chinese pharmacist Hon Lik); it was introduced to the market a year later.