2022 Hackaday Prize: Disposable Vape Pens Turned Project Parts

A vape pen, broken into parts, all laid out on a cutting mat

Disposable vape pens, a sub-genre of electronic cigarettes, have been a fad for a few years now – they’re small self-contained devices with a rechargeable battery and some vape liquid inside. As the battery discharges and the liquid runs out, the entire vape pen is typically thrown out. [Dimitar] wants to change that, however, and teaches us how to reuse as much of the vape pen as possible — as yet another underappreciated source for parts we can use in our projects.

In an extensive worklog, he breaks down and documents a vape pen’s inner workings, coupled with a video we’ve placed below the break showing ways to disassemble them. In these, he shows how we can reuse the casing and the plastic parts, should any of us be interested in a project that happens to fit the e-cig form factor. Attention is paid to the sensor that triggers the evaporation — it may look like a microphone, but is actually a purpose-built pressure-sensor with a high-side switch! He tears into one of these in a separate video, showing how to reuse it as a capacitive touch controller. He also aiming to assemble a small database of related resources on GitHub, currently, hosting the files for the protection circuit he developed as part of his recommendations for safely reusing vape pen Li-ion batteries.

[Dimitar]’s journey is ongoing, and we can’t wait to see some fun uses for these components that he will certainly stumble upon on his way! For instance, here’s a hacker using an e-cig battery to power a pair of RGB LED-adorned sunglasses, replacing the AAAA battery they originally came with. We’ve seen hackers make guides on reusing each and every part of microwave ovens, printers and laptops, and we ourselves have talked about reusing ATX power supplies and computer mice.

47 thoughts on “2022 Hackaday Prize: Disposable Vape Pens Turned Project Parts

        1. It is possible that his handful of neurons have not been assaulted by the notion that comparing devices that are intended to be recharged and have provision for recharging is not equivalent to those that aren’t and don’t.

    1. We’re talking of a device with an intended lifetime of probably less than a month, couple of days maybe for some people.

      However, if these are maybe reject cells that have faults that indicate they’d only do a few charge cycles, then maybe it makes sense.

    2. Comments here are expected to be made in good faith with respect for your peers.

      Please stop failing to meet our very basic and reasonable expectations.

      1. Yeah, this comment was written so badly, in more than one aspect, that it took me quite a bit of time to make sense of it. When it gets into the report queue, it’s not coming back.

    3. Very obtuse take. Cars aren’t meant to be thrown away after one trip, cellphones aren’t tossed after one battery charge.

      E-cigs are meant to be tossed after one charge or one vape juice amount.

      1. True… high current draw tends to mess up smaller capacity alkaline cells also, so you get only half of max capacity out. So guess then you’d need something like a D cell, just for current, and that would be ungainly. Forgot about what the power or resistance of these small coils are, I wanna say 8 ohm but that sounds too much like speakers lol.

    4. depends on whether a rechargeable battery is less environmentally friendly than a primary cell/alkaline battery. Given how little recycling is happening anyway, I doubt it’s that big a difference.

    5. It may be disposable but it not a one time use, so in that regard you need either a battery you can change or something that can be recharged.

      I’m guessing you will need to change the battery/recharge it pretty often since it is boiling the liquid, so it use lot energy (even if it is for a small amount of time)

      At one point if the cost of the product is way higher than buying the real thing there would be no demand.

      1. These things do not have a charging port or supporting circuitry. The intended use is use it til the vape juice is gone or the battery is dead, then bin it. They can however be recharged if the battery is harvested. That’s the real waste here.

    6. it all makes perfect sense: These batteries are 2 times cheaper than non-rechargable ones, but most importantly – they provide 2 times more voltage than regular batteries: 3.7V instead of 1.5V

    7. I’m not sure why everyone is being so mean about a reasonable question. The basic reason is power density. Lion cells provide one of the highest power densities avail that make them ideal. They just happen to also be rechargeable because they are lion and typically can be recharged hundreds of times but in this case they are the preferred battery because of economics and power density. Is it wasteful, yes, but it’s actually the cheapest option for the job. I save all my disposable vape batteries and one day I’ll figure out something to do with them. You could theoretically make a portable battery pack to charge phones using a 3D printer to make a case. Also these have no shielding and are typically encased in a metal tube so you should add some protective casing. Usually the metal tube is longer than the battery but you could reuse the tubes for protection. I’m just an amateur but I’m sure someone with basic electronics knowledge could easily create this. You can also potentially use the charge port from rechargeable disposables to charge the battery pack. Hope this helps and I apologize for other peoples comments as 99.9999% of people don’t know why rechargeables are used in disposables.

      1. John, Thank you for having a proper reply to a question that deserved and answer. I couldn’t figure out why people were being nasty. I also learned about the use of different battery chemistry for specific uses. Good on you for being both civil and knowledgeable.

        1. Thank you, Mr. P. It’s all about spreading the the kindness so that we can live in a better country. Keep up the good work. I appreciate that you can recognize the difference between being helpful and kind, or just being mean.

  1. Theres a very good reason; they are defective.

    When they manufacture and TEST LiOn cells,
    they invariably find cells that are duds.
    There are several types of defect and
    some of these duds hold a significant electrical charge
    for many years, just dont re-charge them!

    So to answer your question,
    they are effectively a non-rechargeable LiOn.
    With the HUGE discharge currents available from
    High-Rate LiOn, it would be rude not to use them for
    SOMETHING requiring High-Rate current.

    Personally, i would not charge them,
    once or twice might be okay for a one or two time test,
    but i would not sleep with it next to me,
    and make sure to discharge them
    for the very last time, at the end of the day.
    (discharge past the protection point to 0 volts)

    1. Interesting…
      There are a number of YouTube videos about making a vape rechargeable (not that they are proper mods).
      I found a vape last month while walking the dog, some of the inner parts are on my bench.

    2. All of the cells I’ve harvested so far (21 total) have taken multiple charge cycles without issue, with about half of them put together to make up a 3930mAh power bank that uses an IP5306 2A power bank SoC; the rest I’m waiting to accumulate more so I can use a PD fast charging power bank PCB. Their capacities seem to vary a fair bit from nominal, some above and some below their rating.

      I wonder what percentage of disposable vape batteries really are QC rejects that shouldn’t be recharged…

        1. Then you probably shouldn’t use batteries, or any electronics, at all, ever. You might also want to avoid fire for cooking and heat too. And be sure to stay close to non-conductive shelter, in case there’s a thunderstorm.

      1. I’m going to go out on a limb here but these are not defective batteries. They are not shielded and if you are interested I’ve been able to track the part numbers back to manufactures that actually shows the battery stats including estimated recharges typically between 300 and 500. Millions of vapes are sold probably daily I seriously doubt these are rejects and have successfully recharged several dozens of times. They have no built in shielding and that makes them dangerous however in a vape they just pop the battery in a metal tube which is probably a lot cheaper than a shielded battery. Use proper safety when repurposing them.

  2. I did a product prototype for a high powered heater “smoking device”. I used the small pressure sensor, and had it control a bigger FET to get a very big hot heater. I was amazed at the sensor, how it had been optimized for the vape device, the sensor I used had a battery level sense and LED indication, auto timeout for heater activation also showing on a LED indicator, and a broken heater sense that shows on LED. I agree that these should not be considered disposable since the LiPo is being thrown out. The vape units also have all different kinds of battery shapes. The low cost units are very popular – and disposed.

  3. “it may look like a microphone, but is actually a purpose-built pressure-sensor with a high-side switch!”
    I was wondering about that!
    Thanks!

    1. I do, and also have spent several thousand on different mods over there years. Some of it is me getting tired of changing coils and dealing with leaks, and much of it has to do with me misplacing stuff…it’s a lot easier to swallow losing a $15 disposable than a $150 box mod and $100 tank (and batteries).

  4. Very nice. I’ve been harvesting parts from these for a couple of years now. I mainly make battery packs for my rc fpv stuff and small microcontroller projects.

  5. By the way. If you want free stuff of this type to get a battery that’s not sold as faulty, with charging from USB C, a USB C cable and some bluetooth functionality in it, which I don’t know if it’s repurposable. Then adults over 19 in Canada can use the current Veev promotion to get a free device, think it’s only on a week or two more. Not sure how easily it would dissassemble though, maybe needs punching out through the top of the thing. Think it’s 230mAh the battery in it. No CC required to get the freebie, write down the freebie code when you first see it though they make it a bugger to find after you create a login.

  6. Just as is, the first thing i thought when i dismantled my first one is that, not only do you have a small free 3.7v li-ion battery, but also the charging circuit along with it witch can also be used on other 3.7v li-ion batteries pulled from other gadgets(cellphones etc…)!! Since it’s not required for charging, I just removed the “coil” wires and pressure sensor on one of mine, and to also make sure it doesn’t cause any “funny” business while i experiment! XD But today i also had another idea that would recycle both the outer shell and electronics, with the shape of a lot of them… a few LEDs and resistors, and it can easily be converted into a small rechargeable flashlight!! :p

    1. I noticed some of the circuit boards have rgb leds, either for indicating battery status (i.e. charging, in use etc), or just decoration. Any ideas for other uses?

  7. i always was curious too…i got started on medical and was curious the same….why something disposable had a USB-C charging port….though FWIW i did need to charge mine at least twice…..likely since Im a “light weight” and didnt use it all that frequently….loli did see the comment about the “defective cells” – im sure they are made in shoddy craftsmanship in a bungalo in the far east somewhere…..so qualiry control is non existent?? LOL….

    I wont be buying another though after I diescovered the ‘dry herb vaporizer’ lol….

    1. I picked up a discarded vape pod today. A couple ounces of plastic waste enclosing a printed circuit board, a li-ion battery, a USB- C
      connector, a heating element, and a reservoir to hold 15 ml of peach flavored nicotine. Is that a product that works toward de-carbonization? Really. Get a paper match, a scrap of recycled paper and tumbler of poison and give the rest of us a break.

    2. Adam if you look the battery usually has identification information on it. You could be absolutely correct about shoddy manufacturing but imo they are perfectly fit to do the job. These are made by the millions and the ones I’ve looked up have stats of usually hundreds of charges. It has a charge port because it cannot have the proper sized battery for 15ml of ejuice. That’s far more wasteful than the current waste and unnecessarily large. I’m happy you found what you like but almost all rechargeable disposables or not use these batteries. China does not participate in global warming initiatives for some reason they get a pass. It’s more than just wasteful, the energy used usually comes from dirty coal.

  8. Thank you!

    I recently started to source used vape pens from my friends, being aware about those LiPol batteries.
    I’m Using TP4056 with alligator clips to recharge and either use them for anything that needs 3xAAA batteries or for some disposable DIY electronics projects (well and to give 1xAAA Lidl trains some extra powah).

    But what surprised me was capability of that ASIC I was throwing away. I thought that the diaphragm really touches some sort of contact to make physical connection. But soldering one wire to pin 1 and have it as touch enabled switch (with 10s limit) is so cool!

    I’m just working on toddler’s toy based on those – touch activated multiple colour LEDs (of course powered by vape cell) and have several more ideas like touch activated flashlight, toy “alarm” and few easter eggs :-D

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