Pre-made Atomizer Guide – Intro into coil types

One of the most important parts of your vaping device is the atomizer. This is the piece that does most of the heavy lifting. It “wicks” your juice onto the coil from your tank or reservoir, then heats up the juice creating the aerosol that you inhale. While all atomizers are not created equal, there’s more to it than that.

There are many types of wire, wicking materials, even filaments used. Some made specifically for temperature control, some for power only, some even support both.

This series of posts will try to explain the different coil options for some of the most popular tanks. Due to the sheer number of tanks (and most tanks use proprietary atomizers), we won’t be able to cover every available tank but we will go through some of the more common brands.

Before we can dive into what’s available for the wide array of tanks on the market, we first have to understand the different types of coils available, and what sets them apart. This first part will be a bit longer than the rest of the posts in this series, but to be able to find the right coil type for you, you must be able to fully understand the differences between the different options.

Generally, there’s 4 common types of wire inside most pre-built coils: Kanthal (A1), Nickel (Ni-200), Titanium (Ti), Stainless Steel (316L). While it’s true there are other types of wire that could be used (Nichrome for example), they aren’t as common, and usually used by users who build their own coils.

(Click the tabs on the left to read more info about that specific wire material)
Kanthal (A1)Nickel (Ni-200)Titanium (Ti)Stainless Steel (316L)

Kanthal is your standard wire material. Almost every tank on the market has an atomizer with a Kanthal coil option. Kanthal itself is actually an iron-chromium-aluminium alloy. It supports a wide range of resistance, and supports pretty high temperatures. Because of its wide range of resistance, and relatively cheap cost, it’s been the standard coil type inside atomizers for as long as vaping has been around. That’s starting to change though. With an uptick in devices that support temperature control, Kanthal is starting to lose favor among most vapers. Besides the “break in” time of the wire is longer than other materials, most devices don’t support TC mode with Kanthal. The reason for this is due to the way TC operates.

TC enabled mods keep the temperature of the coil steady by reading the resistance of the coil as it heats up. As the resistance changes (as all things do when heated), the device will dynamically change the wattage being pushed to keep the temperature consistent. The higher the temperature, the higher the resistance. As the resistance rises, the mod will push less power to compensate.

The problem with Kanthal is as the temperature rises, the real resistance change is very minute. Meaning you need an ultra sensitive sensor to detect those resistance fluctuations, and need to decrease power in very small increments. In order to keep costs down, most TC enabled devices do not include a sensor sensitive enough to detect those changes, hence can’t use Kanthal. Some have tried to release devices with TC modes for Kanthal, but they’ve all been unreliable at best. While there are some other ways to do TC with Kanthal, there currently isn’t a product on the market that takes advantage of them.

There are also more subjective reasons why people choose to skip Kanthal. For instance, Kanthal has a noticeable effect on the flavor of your juice and the coils tend to not last as long as other materials. While these are definitely reasons someone may choose to skip Kanthal, as noted, they are very subjective and shouldn’t weigh heavily on whether you plan on using this material or not.

Important Bits:

  • Kanthal is an iron-chromium-aluminium (FeCrAl) alloy
  • Most common wire material you’ll find
  • Support’s a wide range of resistance
  • Has a high melting point (1,500 °C/2,730 °F)
  • Generally, is not supported by TC devices
  • While now the most popular wire material, is starting to fall out of favor by most vapers

While normally called “Nickel”, the nickel wire used in most vaping devices is actually Ni-200 which is about 99.6% pure nickel, with a few other elements added (Iron, Manganese, Silicon, Copper, Carbon).

One of the first issues you’ll find with Nickel is it doesn’t provide much resistance. Because of that, pushing straight power into it would heat it up super high. On top of that, Nickel is a very soft metal, meaning as it heats up to a certain point it will start leaching into the juice. What makes matters even worse is as nickel heats up, it releases Nickel carbonyl which is a highly toxic carcinogen. Due to those factors, you should ONLY ever use Ni-200 wire with TC enabled devices. Keeping the temperature within safe ranges (check with your coil manufacturer to see what that is) will keep that from happening.

Ni-200 was one of the first coil materials available for TC enabled devices, and is probably still the most common but is slowly being replaced with the far safer Titanium (Ti)

Important Bits:

  • Ni-200 is an alloy consisting of 99.6% Nickel, Iron, Manganese, Silicon, Copper, Carbon
  • Should never be used in any other mode besides TC (with a setting specifically designed for nickel)
  • Can be extremely dangerous to use in power modes (VW or VV)
  • While now the most common TC wire, falling out of favor by most vapers due to the health risks.

Titanium is the new kid on the block when it comes to vaping with a TC device.

Just like nickel, Titanium wire is not pure Titanium. Generally it’s about 99% Titanium with a few other elements added in (generally the same elements you’ll find in Ni-200).

It has about double the resistance of Ni-200, and is less likely to contaminate the juice (changing its flavor) or release carcinogens into the juice. Because of that, it’s usually the preferred option when going TC. Though, it’s not without its own cons as well.

First of all, Titanium can explode at a high enough temperature (somewhere around 704 °C/1300 °F) and a light impact or friction. On top of that, powdered Titanium can burst into flames at about 330 °C/626 °F. Additionally, at about 600 °C/1200 °F Titanium can release Titanium Dioxide which is harmful if inhaled. All of those things added together means vaping using Titanium in anything other than TC mode is dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Vaping using Titanium coils in a TC enabled device (that supports Ti coils) will usually yield one of the best TC vaping experience you can get. It’s low chance of health issues, and it’s ability to not change the flavor of the juice makes it a solid material for TC.

Important Bits:

  • Titanium (Ti) wire is an alloy consisting of 99% Ti
  • While does have health risks when heated to higher temperatures, the temperatures needed to cause an issue are generally outside the range that most mods can provide (in TC mode)
  • Just like Ni-200, should only ever be used in TC mode
  • Due to it’s relatively safe nature (in comparison to Ni-200) and its little effect on the flavor of juices, it’s generally advised over Ni-200
  • Not as many mods actually support Ti wire, but more are being released every day that does

Stainless Steel of the 316L variety also called surgical steel (316L isn’t the only version called “surgical steel”, 440 and 420 is as well), isn’t exactly new when it comes to vaping, but is starting to see a surge in use. The main reason for this is its flexibility. It has a similar (but lower) resistance to Kanthal, which makes it great for powered vaping, but also has a more significant resistance curve when heated, allowing it to be used for TC enabled devices as well (assuming the device supports SS316L in TC mode).

Just like the other materials on this list, SS316L is an alloy consisting of mostly steel, as well chromium (about 18-20%), and nickel and molybdenum in small quantities. There are also other types of SS used (namely 304, 217, and 430) in coils. The major differences is the additional elements added to the steel (for instance, SS304 doesn’t include molybdenum) but due to the rare occurrence of pre-made coils using them as wire material, I won’t go into much detail (unless we come across a tank that has one of them as an option).

Besides being able to work in both powered and TC modes, there are other reasons people are starting to choose SS316L. It will have almost no effect on the juices taste, has little to no “break in” time and generally lasts longer than most wire materials.

It too isn’t without its own faults. When Chromium heats up it can cause Hexavalent Chromium (Cr VI), which is a known carcinogen, to form. Generally, this is only seen when Stainless Steel is involved in welding (very high temperatures) or from grinding. This usually isn’t a concern for vapers since most devices don’t get near the temperature needed to form Cr VI. Even then more research needs to be done to actually quantify the health risks of inhaling Cr VI through an aerosol (i.e., vapor).

Important Bits:

  • SS316L is an alloy consisted of mostly Steel, about 18-20% Chromium, and some other elements like nickel and molybdenum
  • The most flexible commonly available wire material supporting both powered modes and TC modes (if your device supports SS316L)
  • While it does have theoretical health risks, the environment needed to cause them makes it unlikely to occur (more research is needed)
  • Probably the material of choice for most vapers due to its flexibility, longevity, and little effect on the flavor of your juice

Now that we have all the most common wire materials out-of-the-way, there’s one more type of coil you’ll want to keep an eye out for, a Clapton coil. While not a specific material itself, it’s a way of coiling the wire. Basically, a Clapton coil is two wires coiled together. First you start with a single wire used as its core, usually of a lower gauge, and then a second wire wrapped around it, usually of a higher gauge.

The idea behind it is very straight forward. By creating a Clapton coil, you are increasing the surface area of the coil, without actually lowering the resistance of it. This allows you to vaporize more liquid with less power. In practice, you’ll see a higher vapor production from a similar resistance wire. There are all types of Clapton coils, but what you’ll generally find is the core made of Kanthal, and the outer wire made of SS316L. Keep in mind, this isn’t a rule, you’ll see in future articles you could find Clapton’s made of all Kanthal, or even all SS316L.

Fun fact about Clapton coils, it gets its name from its similar appearance to a guitar string, actually being named after the guitarist Eric Clapton.

In the next part of this guide, we’ll look at Innokin’s line of coils for their iSub series. It’s a great tank to really kick this series off with since it has a wide array of coil options.

*Header image borrowed from Local Vape’s YouTube channel. Back to Basics: How to install pre-made coils.

Author: John

I've always been a huge tech junky. If there's a battery and some kind of silicon, I love tinkering with it. When it comes to my vapes, I prefer the hands off approach for my every day device. A nice tank, pre-made coil, and mod with battery built in is just too convenient. One day I'll build a coil. One day.

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