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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Volatile aldehyde emissions from “sub-ohm” vaping devices


"Sub-ohm" atomizers with reduced resistance can deliver more power than conventional electronic cigarettes. Typical battery outputs are 100 W or more. These devices are particularly popular among young users, and can be a significant source of volatile carbonyls in the indoor environment. Emissions from next-generation sub-ohm vaping products were characterized by determining e-liquid consumption and volatile aldehydes emissions for several combinations of popular high-power configurations. Tests explored the effect of dilution air flow (air vent opening), puffing volume, and coil assembly configuration. The mass of liquid consumed per puff increased as the puff volume increased from 50 to 100 mL, then remained relatively constant for larger puff volumes up to 500 mL. This is likely due to mass transfer limitations at the wick and coil assembly, which reduced the vaporization rate at higher puff volumes. Carbonyl emission rates were systematically evaluated using a 0.15 Ω dual coil atomizer as a function of the puffing volume and dilution air flow, adjusted by setting the air vents to either 100% (fully open), 50%, 25%, or 0% (closed). The highest formaldehyde emissions were observed for the lowest puff volume (50 mL) when the vents were closed (48 ng mg-1), opened at 25% (39 ng mg-1) and at 50% (32 ng mg-1). By contrast, 50-mL puffs with 100% open vents, and puff volumes >100 mL for any vent aperture, generated formaldehyde yields of 20 ng mg-1 or lower, suggesting that a significant cooling effect resulted in limited carbonyl formation. Considering the effect of the coil resistance when operated at a voltage of 3.8 V, the amount of liquid evaporated per puff decreased as the resistance increased, in the order of 0.15 Ω > 0.25 Ω > 0.6 Ω, consistent with decreasing aerosol temperatures measured at the mouthpiece. Three different configurations of 0.15 Ω coils (dual, quadruple and octuple) were evaluated, observing significant variability. No clear trend was found between carbonyl emission rates and coil resistance or configuration, with highest emissions corresponding to a 0.25 Ω dual coil atomizer. Carbonyl emission rates were compared with those determined using the same methodology for conventional e-cigarettes (lower power tank systems), observing overall lower yields for the sub-ohm devices.

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