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.

37 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

  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.

  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!

    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?

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