Inventor James L. Moore, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at Georgia Tech, is working on a device that uses an electrical field to vaporize the vapors of electronic cigarettes, which have become popular in recent years.
Moore is using this device to control how the vaporized nicotine is delivered to the user.
“The electronic cigarette is a very, very exciting device, but it is also a very dirty thing,” says Moore, who is also the author of a book on the subject.
Moore says the device uses a special chemical called p-hydroxybenzoic acid (PHBA), which can bind to the atoms in electronic cigarette vapor.
“When the molecules of vapor are vaporized, it forms a chemical bond with the atoms,” he explains.
“This bonding causes the electronic cigarette to behave as if it were a chemical vaporizer.”
The bonding also allows the atom-by-atom chemistry of vapor to be controlled.
“I think the next step is to make the device that does this by using a special type of semiconductor that you can get,” says Loomis, who recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Moore and Loomisd’s prototype, called a p-Hydroxybenzoyl-CoA (HBCA) nanomaterial, can be made into a nanometer-scale device, or a “sub-nanometer” device.
HBCA is a nanomotors technology, a material that is a bit bigger than a single atom, but smaller than a millionth of a meter.
“In the lab, it works great,” says David Poynter, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley, who has been working on HBCAs for about five years.
“But it’s very expensive.”
Poynes team, which has been using HBCas for years to make microelectronic circuits, is still working on its next step, he says.
“We’re just getting started.”
Moore says his group will have to work hard to get the device to work.
“One thing that is challenging is the amount of liquid that needs to be in the device.
The liquid needs to flow, but you need to be able to control that flow and control the liquid that is inside of the device,” he says, adding that he is looking to commercialize the device in the next year or two.
“It’s still very early days, but this is an interesting idea that has potential.”