Why Your eCig Devices Leak During Altitude Changes:
So you decided to take a short trip that required a plane ride and felt like bringing your ecig with you on the plane for some stealth vaping during the flight. But midflight you can suddenly smell the delicious Halawa Guava that you loaded your tank with. You check your front shirt pocket to find that your tank leaked all over you. You were sure you screwed the tank on correctly and made sure the seals were tight. So why did this happen?
Why Did My Tank Leak?
The Short Answer:
Your tank leaked because of a change in air pressure. This pressure change pushed your eliquid out of your tank. Even though the cabin of the airplane is pressurized, the air pressure is still different than the air pressure of where your journey began.
The Longer Answer:
Atmospheric pressure always decreases with increasing altitude.
Air pressure (like water pressure) is a measure of the weight of the air (or water) that is above you. Think about diving into the ocean, the deeper you dive the more pressure you feel on you because there is more water above you. Likewise, as you ascend that mountain there is less atmosphere above you, so the pressure of the air decreases with increasing altitude.
This is why if you fill up a balloon with some air at sea level then take that balloon for a drive up a mountain that balloon will expand. At the air pressure of sea level, the volume of the air inside the balloon is not changing and so we know that the outside air pressure on the balloon is balanced out by the pressure of the air inside of the balloon—basically the internal and external forces are balancing.
But when you take that leisurely drive up the mountain, the air pressure decreases with elevation so there is less air pressure that is pushing down on the balloon. The outside air pressure that is pushing on the balloon is much less at this altitude than it was at sea level and because of this the balloon will expand due to the decrease on the pressure being applied to it.
Essentially you can think of your tank as the rubber of the balloon and your eliquid as the air in the balloon explained above. The same science applies, when you travel from sea level with your filled tank up a side of a mountain the air pressure is trying to balance out in your tank because of the decrease of the pressure around it. This is causing the air inside of your tank to expand and in turn pushes your eliquid out of your tank making it leak.
Check out the gif below demonstrating pressure change with an increase in altitude.
The green arrows indicate the pressure of the air on the outside of the balloon, you will notice as the altitude increases the number of green arrows decreases.Adapted from http://kids.earth.nasa.gov/archive/air_pressure/balloon.html
Is there a way to fix this?
Not really, as we are not able to change the laws of nature. So if you are using a tank with your device, if you know that you will be changing altitudes drastically you can try the following tips:
Leave your tanks empty during travel (altitude change) until you have reached your destination.
Only fill your tanks no more than half way (if you have to vape along the way).
- When traveling with eliquid bottles, half-empty is the best way to go as well. Squeeze as much air out as you can to allow for the expansion of the air and the eliquid being pushed out. Make sure you keep them in a baggie just in case the liquid does seep out.