A Brief History of the Flash Evaporator and Related Vapor Projects

In 1975 I (Bob; send questions here) shared an office with a cigar smoker, who eventually died of lung cancer. Second-hand smoke was not considered a problem in those days. But I was working then under contract to the U.S. EPA, studying the cancer-causing chemicals produced by incomplete combustion, as in cigarettes, cigars, and in the oxygen-starved combustion of coal and solid waste.

One day, as a part of my job, I visited a new kind of solid-waste incinerator which Monsanto had designed and built for the city of Baltimore. My task was to decide whether to bid on doing an economic analysis of the incinerator's performance.

The special feature of the Monsanto incinerator was that it was designed to burn the solid waste incompletely, thereby producing fuel gases that could be piped to, and used to heat, office buildings in downtown Baltimore.

At some point during my visit to the Monsanto plant I realized that tobacco could probably also be heated without combustion -- in other words, I realized that electrically heated air could be used to evaporate the taste and nicotine into an inhalable airstream without having to use the tobacco itself as the energy source to evaporate the taste and nicotine into an inhalable airstream.

I decided to build a noncombustion tobacco inhaler, market it, and then retire. Instead, I learned about the frustrations, challenges and wonders of hands-on research and development.

The first test model was made from laboratory glassware. It used a 1,000-watt heating element from a toaster and survived long enough to prove the idea, and then it melted down. Two years later I had a 100-watt model, which was built from a light bulb and a brake fluid can. My first patent, 4,141,369, was based on that model, which was called the Health Pipe.

The present Flash Evaporator and related projects grew from that origin. Each of them uses about 10 watts of power. The Tobacco Master models use about 40 to 50 watts and, in a sort of irony, the smallest one is the size of a pack of cigarettes.