How E-Cigarettes Work

If you’re new to E-Cigarettes or just want to know more, our handy guide explains the basic functions of an ecigarette, the different parts and help you better understand the variety of vaping devices available.

Generally speaking, ecigarettes comprise the same basic parts – a battery, a heating element or atomiser, a tank element, and a mouthpiece. Eliquid is turned into a vapour as it passes through an atomiser that is heated by power from the battery. You inhale the resulting vapour.

The Ecigarette Battery

ecigarette batteries

Most ecigarette batteries are lithium ion and rechargeable. Lithium ion batteries are widely used, for example you’ll find them in laptops, and wireless devices. However, you will find some basic devices are disposable and once the eliquid is used up you discard the ecigarette. Some devices, depending on the type of power you require, take up to four batteries.

Battery strength is measured in mAh (milliampere hours). The higher the mAh value, the longer the battery will last between charges.

For example:

  • A typical cig-a-like battery will be between 200-300 mAh. Cig-a-likes are the most basic of ecigarette. They mimic cigarettes and work automatically when you inhale.
  • An eGo-style battery will range from 500 to 1200 mAh. These are larger pen-like devices, are rechargeable and require the user to operate them via a button.
  • A mod battery can fall anywhere between 700 and 3500 mAh. Mods are the larger, more powerful box-style power units.

Batteries carry a risk of fire. You should always use a case for carrying spare batteries. If batteries are loose in your pocket and they come into contact with other metal objects – keys or coins for example – they can discharge and catch fire.

Always use the correct charger too. Nearly all ecigarette battery fires are caused by user modifications without proper understanding of power or by using an unsuitable charger.

Some batteries carry the risk of fire if the charge drops too low. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Ecigarette Coils – How Atomisers Work

ecigarette coils

The atomiser is the part of an ecigarette that turns the eliquid into vapour. It’s the unit that houses the coil – the metal wire that heats up when the current from the battery is passed through. Usually there is a wicking material running through the coil, which is saturated with eliquid. The wick feeds eliquid to the coil.

Coils will need to be replaced and pre-built coils are available, but some vapers prefer to build their own.

Some vapers prefer to drip the eliquid straight onto the coil, rather than have it drawn up through the wick from the tank element. Eliquid is placed directly onto the coil and wick material and when the battery is fired up vapour is produced. One advantage of dripping is the enhanced flavour. Atomisers like this are referred to as RDA – rebuildable dripping atomisers. You can buy your own coil material and design your own coil/wick set-up depending on your personal preferences. Different coil material produces different resistance from the battery and more or less cloud and heat.

Ecigarette Tank Element - Cartridges, Cartomisers and Clearomisers

vaping coils

Your eliquid needs a home. Depending on the type of ecigarette it will have a tank element known as a cartridge, cartomiser or clearomiser.

They all essentially fulfil the same function – to store eliquid and supply it to the coil.


Usually found in a simple cig-alike device the cartridge slots onto the atomiser and feeds the eliquid to the heating element, like an ink cartridge feeds the nib of an ink pen. Once it’s empty you put a new cartridge in place. The lifespan of the atomiser varies depending on build quality and usage but users will usually get between 5 and 20 cartridge changes before the atomiser is spent.


A cartomiser is similar but contains a polyfill material wrapped around the heating element. The eliquid is soaked into the polyfill and is easily refilled, but previous flavours can linger. helps extend the life of the eliquid, and some cartomisers are housed inside large tanks capable of holding a high volume of eliquid.


A clearomiser is an atomiser inside a container holding eliquid, which is transferred to the coil via the wick. To most users it is simply the ‘tank’ – and these get their ‘Clearomiser’ name because they are made with a transparent plastic or glass material, where you can see exactly how much eliquid remains.

The coils in clearomisers are designed to be replaced and can be positioned differently inside the tank:

Top Coil – A top coil clearomizer gives you a warm vapour because the vapour is so close to the atomiser head. These are also filled from the top and easy to refill.

Bottom Coil – These have good wicking ability and produce great vapour quality and a very cool vapour but can be tricky to refill.

Multiple Coils – Multiple coils produce a cooler vape because the heat is spread out. You also get more vapour and potentially a stronger throat hit.

Putting it All Together

Your final vape depends on the power of your device, the type of eliquid you choose to vape (for example a higher VG blend will need more power).