WHAT IS A VAPORIZER?
A vaporizer is a device used to gently heat aromatherapy blends in order to create vapor.
Although the vaporizer concept has been around for decades, only in the last 15 years or so have commercial vaporizers been manufactured and sold. Today, the benefits of vaporization are becoming more widely known, consequently the number and variety of devices has been rapidly increasing. This makes classifying vaporizers unexpectedly difficult, but every vaporizer has two essential components: a heat source, and a transfer system.
Although all vaporizer designs use one of three ways to employ heat for the primary heat source, they almost always benefit from the secondary effects of one or both of the other types. The primary types are:
- vention works by flowing heated air over and through aromatherapy blends. Most modern vaporizers primarily use convection because it heats aromatherapy blends more evenly and efficiently, and temperature control is easier.
- works by direct contact of aromatherapy blends with a heated surface. The earliest commercial vaporizers used conduction. Although it fell out of favor when convection vaporizers appeared, some successful modern designs have revived conduction.
- Radiation works by transferring heat using energy emitted as electromagnetic waves. There are few radiation vaporizers, but some vaporizer designs take advantage of radiated heat as a supplemental source.
Most heaters for conduction vaporizers are metal, usually stainless steel because it is inert at vaporizing temperatures. The heater surface can be either solid metal or a screen. An advantage of this type of heater is quick heating and cooling, but some designs use a solid metal block rather than a plate. The advantage of this is that the block does not cool off significantly as you draw air over it, but of course it is slower to cool down.
For convection vaporizers, the most popular heater is ceramic, again because the ceramics used are inert at vaporizing temperatures. Ceramic heaters are slower to warm up but once hot, they retain heat well and minimize the cooling caused by incoming air. Some designs supplement the ceramic heater with stainless steel or other metal that acts as a heat exchanger, further stabilizing the temperature. As with metal blocks, these designs cool down slowly.
Some vaporizers use a nichrome wire wrapped around a glass chamber as a heat source. Because this design is sensitive to cooling air, this type of heater is controlled by a programmed chip, which gives it the potential of providing the most stable temperature of all heater types.