Demystifying why cartridges clog towards the end

We've all experienced it - just when you think you're nearing the end of your vape cartridge, it suddenly becomes clogged.

This frustrating occurrence can leave both consumers and producers scratching their heads. Join us as we explain why this phenomenon occurs and explore practical ways to avoid and mitigate these frustrations.

Cartridges clog when too much oil flows into the center heating chamber, even when it’s not being activated, which causes the center airway to get blocked by the oil. Initially, users can easily unclog the cartridge by taking a hit, creating suction and airflow that clears the blocked airway. However, after the cartridge is unused for some time (more than an hour), users will often find it clogged again. Making matters more frustrating, unclogging it becomes a little more difficult this time. Considering that this cartridge was working just fine leading up to this point, it can be puzzling and exasperating for consumers, retailers, and producers alike to understand why this occurs as the cartridge nears depletion. So why this phenomenon occurs, and what can be done to avoid and mitigate these frustrations.

Understanding the mechanism

As we referenced above, cartridges clog when too much oil flows into the center heating chamber each time after the cartridge is used. Let’s break down in more detail what this means.  Before the cartridge is used, oil is absorbed into the empty pores of the ceramic heating core. As the cartridge is used, the oil inside these pores gets vaporized and inhaled by the user.  After it’s used, the empty porous ceramic heating core becomes absorbent again, and receives oil from outside the inlet holes. If it receives more oil than the pores can hold, the oil starts blocking the center airway.

So why does more oil begin to absorb into the ceramic heating core (after each use) as the cartridge has less and less oil remaining? There are two main reasons:

  1. Increased Oil Absorption: As the cartridge approaches depletion, the remaining oil absorbs into the inlet holes more readily. The reduced oil level results in higher temperatures within the cartridge since there is less oil to absorb the heat from the ceramic core. Additionally, the viscosity of the remaining oil decreases, facilitating greater absorption into the ceramic and cotton wrap. Zirconia cartridges, in particular, face an even greater challenge in this regard. Because the zirconia material passes heat through to the remaining oil more effectively, it causes the oil to reach a higher temperature and lower viscosity, making it more prone to clogging.
  2. Vacuum Forces: The diminishing oil level reduces the vacuum forces that typically resist oil absorption into the heating chamber. With less oil and more air present, the re-saturation of the heating chamber after each use becomes easier.

Why is this a difficult problem for producers to address?

The factors we mentioned above are unavoidable given the 510-cartridge structure. The 510-cartridge structure is the most mature and proven to be the most versatile. Any structural changes to address this issue will likely lead to other unintended consequences and product flaws. It would be beneficial to use a cartridge with a higher power setting, to ensure more vaporization and less oil build up towards the end of the cartridge. However, higher power settings sacrifice purity of flavor, as a higher heating rate could lead to burning of terpenes.

Mitigating End-of-Use Clogging:

As a user, there are practical steps you can take to mitigate end-of-use clogging and ensure a smoother vaping experience:

  • Mindful Storage: Avoid subjecting the cartridge to prolonged periods of high temperatures, as this accelerates oil flow into the heating chamber and contributes to earlier clogging. Proper storage can help maintain viscosity levels and prevent excessive oil absorption.
  • Pre-heating Technique: Activate the battery/cartridge before taking a hit. This allows time for the oil in the heating chamber to warm up and vaporize, making unclogging easier.
  • Power Setting Adjustment: While lower power settings may provide optimal flavor, they can exacerbate clogging issues. Consider using a higher power setting to ensure more efficient vaporization and minimize oil buildup in the heating chamber.

By implementing these strategies, you can navigate the final stages of cartridge usage with confidence, ensuring a hassle-free vaping experience until the last drop. Armed with this knowledge, you can bid farewell to end-of-use clogs and fully enjoy the potential of your vape cartridges.

May 22, 2023

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