June 2016

Evolution of the Coil – Heating Elements have Arrived

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By Arvid Sollom

Vaping as a technology is arguably one of the fastest evolving bits of kit that the modern world has yet seen.

Long term vapers have watched the devices move in small iterations and large leaps as manufacturers feed off of the innovation of others and throw their own ideas into the mix. Builders have innovated and explored feeding off each other pushing the coils they build to wicked complexity.

The sub-ohm tank revolution that started with the Aspire Atlantis and Kanger Subtank was inspired directly by the large surface coils being used by hobbyist builders. Soon tanks like the Herakles picked up the idea of parallel coils from builders and improved flavor in those tanks.

Builders kept pushing complexity and variation and the Clapton coil was discovered. Half a year after Clapton coils were ‘invented’ they made their appearance in sub-ohm tanks bringing along the increased flavor as well. Basically, innovations in sub-ohm tank coils have been inspired by builders from their beginning, that is, until now.

Loss of the Coil

Early 2016 has seen an explosion of coils that are much more unique than taking simple Clapton coils and throwing them into a vertical replacement coil head. One such tank which exploded onto the scene, earlier this year, to start the ceramic revolution was the oft touted as “coilless” Altus tank.

It promised a clean vape and a semi-permanent coil. While it may have been high priced and largely underperformed versus expectations, the unique attempt from an outsider of the vape community helped wake a bold new trend.

The Altus chose a heating chip which looks a bit like an automotive fuse encased in ceramic instead of plastic. Rewicking is cumbersome, vapor production mediocre and the tank absorbs enormous amounts of heat back from the coil making it painful to the touch after a few puffs. However its promises were not entirely unfounded. The concept survived and began a rash of iterations and alternatives with this ceramic concept.

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One of the next wide spread contributors to the ceramic trend is the cCell by Vaporesso. While their initial Target tank is one of the most basic possible sub-ohm tanks, the replacement head brought something new to the table. These replacement coils actually still use a physical coil, lightly encased in a ceramic wall. Suggested wattage ranges are on the low side for normal sub-ohm coils and resistance of the Kanthal version is atypically high at .9 ohm, however vapor production is impressive and flavor reproduction is downright intense.

Luckily, Vaporesso has continued to develop their tanks with the Gemini line which brings some of the best airflow options available into a tank which uses the most common style of coil. The cCell coils are built on the Atlantis style replacement head, so they fit a vast number of different tanks already on the market. With slightly restricted airflow, these are not the coils to replace 100+ watt drippers, however with the impressively intense flavor, they have a huge potential for the flavor chaser style vaper.

On the other side of the airflow spectrum is the Scylla ceramic coil (which is actually more of an embedded heating element rather than proper coil). These replacement heads fit the line of Freemax/Vapestron tanks, which happen to also fit many other tanks such as the Herakles, Playboy, Ronin and Driptide as well as any other tank which takes Atlantis coils, but is not dependent on the top threading for connection. With open airflow and claims of 160 watt tolerances, such coils are clearly aimed at the cloud chaser crowd who hadn’t yet had a solid ceramic option. One drawback to 160 watts of power is that it has a tendency to expose ceramic to brutal heat fluctuations which can potentially damage the coil prematurely, however the heads do perform well at much lower (60-90 watt) ranges which seem to increase their longevity.

Pseudo-Rebuildables

Taking the idea of semi-permanent coils to the next level are the pseudo-rebuildable tanks such as the Gigue Dolphin and Horizon Tech Krixus. They employ a long term ceramic heating unit with an embedded metal heating element which can be cleaned and rewicked manually as often as needed. Close in form to a standard Atlantis style replacement coil, these provide a bridge between the rebuilding hobbyist style and the ready to vape sub-ohm tank experience.

Heating elements, like the Scylla, are subject to breakage and careful handling is necessary during the wicking and cleaning process to make sure they are not damaged; however performance can be quite impressive.

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The Krixus, in particular, gives a very responsive, cloudy and flavorful vape running with proper wicking in the same 60-90 watt range as the Scylla coils, but produces a very warm tank in the process.

All Bets Are Off

Now that the traditional concepts of what makes a ‘coil’ in a vape setup have been broken, the gates have been thrown wide open. Tanks such as the SX Pure series coming from Yihi have taken all reference to an actual coil out of their system, with a complex U shaped element that the user wraps cotton through.

Even true rebuildable tanks and drippers are being treated to a new concept with such innovation as the Notch coil, slated to premier in the Theorem RTA by Jaybo and Matt of Suck My Mod fame. The Notch coil is a milled tube of Stainless Steel which has numerous notches cut out of it, resulting in something vaguely resembling a coil but providing a very high surface area to mass ratio.

In a coil, this is one of the most important elements; more surface area means more contact with liquid resulting in typically better flavor and potentially more clouds, less mass means faster heating times at lower power consumption levels.

Expect that by the end of 2016, prebuilt coils in both sub-ohm tanks and RBAs will have taken some leaps and bounds from their predecessors in 2015. By now most major vape gear manufacturers are toying with new heating elements, even Kanger jumped on the bandwagon in early spring. Reliable temperature control is very much a possibility here once some kinks are worked out, so expect some great strides in that world as well.