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What is the Atomizer?

Ethan Parker

Written by: Ethan Parker

Updated on December 13, 2023

What is the Atomizer

The atomizer, a seemingly simple device, has a fascinating history and surprising versatility. Its journey began centuries ago, transforming liquids into fine mists for diverse purposes, from medical treatments to perfume sprays. Today, it stands at the heart of the vaping world, playing a crucial role in creating the vapor we inhale.

What is the Atomizer?

Traditionally, an atomizer is defined as “a device for emitting water, perfume, or other liquids as a fine spray.” This fundamental concept of converting liquid to a fine mist forms the basis of the atomizer in vape culture.

In vaping, the atomizer is a critical component, central to the process of creating the vapor. It’s designed to perform a similar function as its traditional counterpart but with a specific focus on e-liquids. The atomizer in a vape device consists of:

  1. Atomizer Coil: This is the heating element, capable of reaching temperatures between 180°F and 500°F, essential for vaporizing the e-liquid.
  2. Cotton Wick: Connecting the atomizer coil with the cartridge, the wick absorbs the e-liquid and carries it to the coil for vaporization.

The atomizer in a vape device fulfills three key roles:

  • It acts as a reservoir for the e-juice.
  • It heats the e-liquid to vaporize it.
  • It transports the e-liquid from the reservoir to the heating area.

Other components that work in conjunction with the atomizer include:

  • Battery: This provides the power needed for the coil to heat up and produce vapor.
  • Cartridge: Holding the e-juice, it comes in reusable and disposable forms and interfaces with the wick, while being isolated from the electronic coils.
  • Mouthpiece: Through this, the user inhales the vapor.

The History of the Atomizer

The history of the atomizer, a device that transforms liquid into a fine mist, is a tale of innovation spanning several centuries. Initially emerging in the 19th century with Dr. Allen DeVilbiss’s medical atomizer, this technology soon found favor in the perfume industry of the early 20th century, known for its sophisticated and intricate designs. As medical science progressed, atomizers became crucial in treating respiratory diseases by mid-century. Later, their application extended to industrial and agricultural fields, revolutionizing practices like crop spraying and industrial coating. The 21st century saw atomizers adapting to household uses, such as cleaning and air freshening, showcasing their versatility.

In the realm of vaping, atomizers have been central since their inception. The concept, dating back centuries, was first adapted for vaping in the 1960s with Herbert A. Gilbert’s smokeless non-tobacco cigarette. The modern era of vaping began with Hon Lik’s invention of the electronic cigarette in the early 21st century, employing an electronic atomizer to vaporize nicotine liquid. Since then, atomizers have evolved dramatically, shifting from simple disposable units to complex, rebuildable models that offer customizable vaping experiences. Modern atomizers, equipped with features like adjustable airflow and sub-ohm capabilities, are now fundamental to vaping technology, highlighting the atomizer’s journey from a simple mist-creating device to a key component in diverse industries.

How Does the Atomizer Work?

The core of the atomizer consists of a coil and a wicking material, usually made of cotton. The coil is a small piece of resistance wire that heats up when electricity is applied. The wicking material, typically cotton, is in close contact with the coil and absorbs the e-liquid.

When a user activates the vape device, the battery sends an electric current to the atomizer. This current heats the coil to a temperature high enough to vaporize the e-liquid. The process starts when the absorbed e-liquid in the wick is drawn to the heated coil. As the coil heats up, it turns the e-liquid from the wick into vapor. This vapor is then inhaled by the user through the mouthpiece of the device.

The efficiency and quality of vapor production depend on several factors, including the type of coil, the resistance of the coil (measured in ohms), and the material of the wick. Lower resistance coils generally produce more heat and, therefore, more vapor, but they also consume more battery power. The wicking material also plays a crucial role as it needs to efficiently transport the e-liquid to the coil without burning. In short, the atomizer works by converting electrical energy from the battery into heat, which then vaporizes the e-liquid on the wick, turning it into the vapor that is inhaled by the user.

Types of Atomizer

Clearomizers are a type of atomizer with a transparent tank, letting you see the e-liquid level and offering pre-built coils for easy replacement. Think of them as more advanced versions of atomizers with visible guts. Cartomizers, on the other hand, are simpler, disposable units combining the atomizer, wick, and e-liquid in one cartridge. They’re like self-contained, throw-away atomizers, ideal for convenience but limited in customization. So, remember: atomizer is the core, clearomizer is the visible atomizer, and cartomizer is the all-in-one, disposable option. Choose your vape buddy based on your desired level of control and convenience!

Feature Atomizer Clearomizer Cartomizer
Definition Core component that vaporizes e-liquid Transparent tank atomizer All-in-one atomizer and e-liquid cartridge
Reusability Can be rebuildable or disposable Usually disposable Disposable
Complexity Most complex Moderately complex Simplest
E-liquid visibility Not always visible Visible Not visible
Coil replacement Requires technical knowledge (RBAs) or easy pre-built coils Easy pre-built coils Not replaceable, entire unit discarded
Customization Most customizable (RBAs) Some customization (coils, airflow) Limited customization

Choosing the right type depends on your preferences:

  • For beginners or convenience: Clearomizers offer a good balance of ease of use and performance.
  • For control and customization: RBAs are ideal for experienced vapers who want to fine-tune their vaping experience.
  • For portability and simplicity: Cartomizers are a good option for travel or on-the-go use.

When Should Replace the Atomizer?

Replacing your atomizer depends on two main factors: type of atomizer and usage patterns. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Disposable Atomizers: Replace them when the e-liquid runs out or you experience significant flavor drop, burnt taste, or reduced vapor production.

Replaceable Coil Atomizers: Replace the coil (not the entire atomizer) when you notice:

  • Burnt taste: The most common sign, indicating the coil is clogged and needs refreshing.
  • Reduced vapor production: The coil is losing efficiency, meaning less vapor for your puff.
  • Leaking: Damaged coil or seals can lead to messy leaks.
  • Flavor change: The coil is no longer effectively wicking the e-liquid, distorting the flavor.

General Guidelines:

  • Disposable: 1-2 weeks with average use.
  • Replaceable Coil: 1-4 weeks depending on usage frequency, e-liquid sweetness, and wattage.

Pro Tip: Pay attention to your senses! A burnt taste or noticeable decline in performance is your cue to replace the coil or atomizer.


The atomizer, once a simple device for creating mists, has become a versatile tool with a rich history and a bright future. Its journey from medical treatments to the heart of the vaping world showcases its adaptability and potential. As technology advances, the atomizer will likely continue to evolve, offering even more ways to experience the world in a mist.

So, the next time you inhale a flavorful puff, remember the tiny powerhouse behind it – the atomizer, a testament to human innovation and the magic of transforming liquids into air.

Ethan Parker
All-in-one Disposable