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The Vaporizer Pipe
Flame-Powered Vaporizer Technology
by Earth Erowid
Jun 2008
Originally published in Erowid Extracts
Citation:   Erowid E. "The Vaporizer Pipe: Flame-Powered Vaporizer Technology". Erowid Extracts. Jun 2008;14:4.
A novel, non-electric vaporizer became available in late 2003, sold as the "Vapor Genie". It bears mentioning because the simplicity and effectiveness of this type of device could potentially increase vaporizer use and reduce smoking-related health issues for cannabis users.

"Adding a porous ceramic flame filter radically reduced inhaled soot and combustion products compared to using a simple pipe."
What sets this vaporizer apart from previously available models is that it operates using the flame of a lighter as the heat source rather than an electric heating element, and the vaporizing process is much like that of smoking a traditional pipe.

Instead of applying the flame directly to plant material, which causes it to burn, the heat from the lighter is pulled through a porous ceramic filter. The filter allows air and heat to pass through, interrupting the flow of the flame and diffusing the heat.

It is perhaps easiest to picture with a step-by-step description of its use: The plant material is placed in the pipe's bowl. (Like other vaporizers, this device works best with finely ground plant matter.) A spherical lid containing the ceramic filter is screwed onto the pipe above the bowl, enclosing the plant material in a chamber. The smoker applies the flame to a wide hole in the lid and slowly inhales, drawing the air through the ceramic filter, the plant material, and the pipe, into their mouth. After approximately 3-6 seconds, the ceramic element heats up enough to transfer sufficient heat into the bowl to begin vaporizing the plant material's volatile components. As the smoker feels the air entering their mouth become warm, or tastes the vaporized compounds, the flame is removed. The user continues to pull air through the pipe for another 3-6 seconds, during which time the volatile components are still being vaporized by the heated, flameless ceramic element.

As with a well-tuned electric vaporizer, when used properly and with quality cannabis, tobacco, or other smoking blends, the result is a fresh-tasting, nearly smokeless hit. The heaviest smoke results when the flame isn't removed quickly enough, causing too much heat. In contrast to most other vaporizers, the main advantage of this type of device is that it is solid-state and portable, requiring no cord or electronic components.

The Vapor Genie feels sturdy and well built. The bowl is stainless steel and the body is wood (Ash). All parts of the pipe are reportedly made in the United States and assembled by the Vapor Genie staff. While it is distinctly pipe-shaped, it is rather unusual looking with its bulbous lid atop the bowl. The filter is a silicon-carbide ceramic foam first created in the 1970s by NASA researchers looking for high-temperature fuel-mixing materials. The same ceramic is used to mix gases for silicon chip manufacturing and fuel gases for military rockets. Dan Steinberg, the inventor of the Vapor Genie, describes that the "extremely tortuous path" that the air takes through the 3-D structure "causes turbulent mixing in which the air flows are broken apart and recombined multiple times" before emerging at a uniform temperature.

Perhaps the top complaints we've heard about the Vapor Genie are that it takes some skill and attention to use properly and that the process of screwing the lid on can be difficult for those with poor dexterity. A simple improvement to this design would be an easier-to-use filter-to-bowl seating. The benefit of the sometimes-cumbersome screw-on lid is that the plant material is securely contained in the bowl and won't spill if the unit is dropped or knocked over.

Other design possibilities spring to mind, including ceramic flame filters built to retrofit the standard bowls used in water pipes/bongs or "one-hitter" style straight pipes with magnetized ceramic filter attachments.

If used with cannabis, the Vapor Genie does not completely vaporize the volatile components: the remaining plant material still contains active cannabinoids. This partially depleted material could be used in cooking. Among cash-strapped and younger smokers, who are known to smoke ash and tars scraped from pipes and bongs to make use of every bit of available THC, incomplete cannabinoid delivery may reduce the pipe's popularity. But for those concerned about health issues related to smoking, the Vapor Genie is a convenient and affordable vaporizing option.