Different metals used in portable vaporizers as heaters, their impact on performance and overall health.
Stainless Steel & Performance Affects
As the vaporizers evolve, the technology that they use also changes. We wanted to cover several common metals used in portable vaporizers today as heaters and their impact on the vaporizer performance vs overall health.
Steel: The most common steel type that is used as a heating source is the stainless steel. Although it is a fairly expensive metal, it also has different grades. Like Type 301: highly ductile, hardens rapidly and solid production. Type 304 with 18% chromium. You also have Type 200 with manganese alloys. 400 series are ferritic and martensitic chromium alloys. There are over 50 different types with different material combinations to make the stainless steel. So not every steel is the same. Question is, how do companies choose steel to use in portable vaporizers as the heating source? It depends on the brand. If the concern is the overall cost to the producer, a lower grade option is selected. Still classified as stainless steel of course but the chemistry differs a lot.
The 300 series, especially the 316 series is one of the most expensive steel grades out there with 1.4401 / 1.4404 ratio and the combo of chromium and nickel, it is referred as the “food grade”. 304 series has no more than 0.8% carbon and at least 50% Iron in it. Most of your cookware is made of 300 series steel if you spent a good budget on them.
High end portable vaporizers use 300 series commonly since it is safer to use at high temperature applications without sacrificing the corrosion resistance. Haze Dual V3 uses the 316 series for example.
Aluminum: This is another popular material that is used by the manufacturers of vaporizers. Studies show that non-treated Aluminum may increase your bodies Al intake during high heat exposure. Human body is designed to excrete Aluminum in low amounts but exposing your body to high volume of Aluminum at high temperature levels, may be harmful to body. Low end portable vaporizers may use untreated Aluminum as a heat source since this material is extremely easy to shape, cheaper to manufacture and has great thermal properties which increases the performance of the vaporizer greatly but it poses an increased risk to your health at high amounts.
nichrome vs kanthal
On the other hand, you will find a greater percentage of your kitchenware are made of Aluminum. The reason for this is: if Aluminum is treated with specific procedures like anodizing/oxidizing, the health risk of using Aluminum is minimized. These treatments provide an inert thin layer which prevents Aluminum to mix into your herb or concentrates at high temperatures. If you are considering buying a portable vaporizer, you should make sure that the Aluminum parts that have direct contact with your herb or concentrates, are all treated.
Aluminum offers much faster heat up and it transfers the heat better than steel. This is the reason that Aluminum is very popular as a heating source in portable vaporizers.
Nichrome/Kanthal: You will find these mostly in coil based heaters in electronic cigarettes. Nichrome (NiCr) is an alloy of Nickel, chromium and iron. Kanthal is an alloy of iron, chromium and aluminum. It has greater resistance capabilities. From health perspective, similar to Kanthal, the Nickel exposure is always a concern in vaping community but there are no actual facts about using Nichrome as a heating source is bad for the human health. The only studies that show potential negative effects of Nickel exposure are in welding applications at much higher temperatures of usage.
Titanium Used in Portable Vapes
Unlike some of the common topics in the vaping forums, there is not much difference between Kanthal and Nichrome when it comes to performance or chemistry. The Kanthal has a higher melting point that Nichrome but both can withstand temperatures above 2,400F which is way out of range of vaping temperatures. The Nichrome has lower resistance than Kanthal in nature which makes the device heat up slightly faster compared to Kanthal. These are insignificant differences in these two materials.
Because of the Aluminum in the alloy of Kanthal, it is easier to work with and it is more sturdy compared to Nichrome. It takes heat better and lasts slightly longer. The Nichrome on the other hand, heats up faster, cools down faster.
Titanium: Another material that is used to build coils and in some portable vaporizers, it is used as a full chamber/heater. Titanium is expensive and it does not have the best heating capabilities compared to the other metals. It heats slower and cools down slower. The only advantage of Titanium is that it allows better temperature control. If you like manual operating devices, you may find titanium based vaporizers more effective because it is harder to combust accidentally with titanium. From health perspective, again, there are no definitive studies out there which can prove whether titanium is safe or not when it comes to vaping applications.