Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Riverside

UC Riverside Previously Published Works bannerUC Riverside

Analysis of the elements and metals in multiple generations of electronic cigarette atomizers



Since their release in 2004, electronic cigarettes (ECs) and their atomizers have undergone significant evolution.


The purpose of this study was to evaluate and compare the elemental/metal composition of atomizers in cartomizer and tank style ECs produced over a 5-year period.


Popular cartomizer and tank models of ECs were dissected and photographed using a stereoscopic microscope, and elemental analysis of EC atomizers was done using scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive x-ray spectroscopy.


Eight elements/metals were found in most products across and within brands purchased at different times. These included chromium, nickel, copper, silver, tin, silicon, aluminum, and zinc. Iron and lead were found in some but not all products, while manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, titanium, and tungsten were only found in a few of the products. The metals used in various components were often similar in cartomizer and tank models. Filaments were usually chromium and nickel (nichrome), although in some newer products, the filament also contained iron, copper, and manganese. The thick wire in earlier products was usually copper coated with silver, while in some newer products, the thick wire was predominantly nickel. In all products, the wick was silica, and sheaths, when present, were fiberglass (silicon, oxygen, calcium, aluminum, magnesium). Wire-to-wire joints were either brazed or clamped with brass (copper and zinc), and air-tube-to-thick wire joints, when present, were usually soldered with tin. Tank style products generally lacked a thick wire and sheaths.


In general, atomizer components in ECs were remarkably similar over time and between brands. Certain elements/metals were consistently found in most models from all generations, and these should be studied carefully to determine if their transfer to aerosols affects user's health and if their accumulation in trash affects the environment.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View