Reusing Disposable Vape Batteries

I’m going to show you how to reuse these batteries, diverting valuable and hazardous substances from landfill while acquiring free batteries for your microcontroller projects.

The Shift to Single-Use Vape Devices

It’s ridiculous… How do vape companies get away with putting perfectly good rechargeable lithium batteries in a single-use device? And why does it seem like there are so many more of these around all of a sudden?

I think the shift has something to do with the Juul ban. Juul had a significant share of the market with its rechargeable, cartridge refillable device. When it was pulled from the US market in 2022 by the FDA, new competitors popped up to fill the demand, in a market where now brand recognition could mean a target on your back from regulators. So they’re not incentivized to make a refillable system. And selling you a completely new device every time the old one wears out is more profitable than selling you just a cartridge. Unless lithium becomes much more scarce, or it becomes a legal requirement to make them infinitely refillable, I don’t see this trend changing anytime soon, unfortunately.

I did find some brands that do have a charging circuit included, to make use of a larger liquid reservoir. But once the liquid runs out, the device is still intended to be thrown out.

How did I get this many devices to take apart? Besides picking them up off the sidewalk, I asked my local Buy Nothing group and found a few willing folks who knew better than to throw these in the trash and were happy to offload their hoard.

Lithium Battery Overview

Lithium batteries are used in many everyday devices like laptops, cell phones, hybrids and electric cars. They are much lighter than traditional alkaline batteries and can last much longer. They can also be recharged multiple times. So it’s no wonder that they’re in everything nowadays.

Lithium batteries contain layers of materials folded up together into a small shape. Energy is stored on either side of a battery “stack” and it wants to get from one side to the other, and we power our circuits by making the charges do work for us along the way. As the battery discharges and produces an electric current, lithium ions are released by the anode to the cathode, causing a flow of electrons from one end to the other. When charging, the opposite happens: the cathode releases lithium ions, which are then obtained by the anode. You can think of the act of charging like pushing the energy back to the other side so that it can be ready to go again. And if the layers are breached by, say, a puncture or by crushing, the battery can become shorted out, and the electrons get way too excited.

The C rate is the measure of how quickly the battery can be discharged and recharged without damaging it. Failure modes include overcharging, over-discharging, and short-circuiting. Always use a charging rate appropriate for the battery’s C rating, or a conservative guess.

Here’s a list of do’s and don’ts when using LiPo batteries:


  • Charge your battery slowly and evenly, at a rate appropriate for its capacity.
  • Store your battery in a cool place
  • Get a fireproof battery bag to keep your batteries in


  • Don’t charge or discharge your battery too quickly or let it get too hot
  • Don’t leave your battery unattended while charging
  • Don’t discharge your battery below its minimum voltage level

Taking Apart the Devices

Taking apart anything with a lithium battery in it is dangerous. You have to be careful not to damage the battery or short it out, or you could quickly have a concentrated fire hazard on your hands. So, don’t do this at home without the supervision of someone who knows what they are doing!

I cracked open the cases using an awl and hammer to apply force to the seams in the plastic enclosures.

Then, the whole circuit and tank assembly usually slides right out. If it doesn’t, you can reach in with pliers and pull on the plastic tank– not the battery or its wires.

I recommend wearing gloves when handling and disposing of the liquid tank, and give the battery a wipe before removing them. When I didn’t, I had a hard time getting the stink out of my fingers even after washing my hands. This whole process is pretty smelly, and I think you can absorb the ingredients through your skin too.

Here are some examples of the batteries I found inside. These 280 and 350 mAh batteries are about five dollars retail, and perfect for wearables or other portable projects.

I desoldered them from the other circuitry, and soldered the two wire connections to a new JST plug, with plenty of heat shrink tubing to insulate the connections and relieve any strain on the tiny battery wires.

Charging the Batteries

To charge these up, you can’t just connect them to power. You’ll need a charger circuit with appropriate settings for the size of the battery. The charger monitors the battery and fills it up gradually and safely.

Some have a dip switch so you can toggle the charging rate, like the one shown on the left. You should choose the fastest rate without going over the capacity of the battery. So, for example, for a 350mAh battery, I’d choose to charge at 300 mA. Others have solder pads you can bridge to set the charging rate, like that shown on the right– I chose 200 for the 280 mAh batteries.

You can find the components I used linked below:

The large-capacity devices are nice for reusing because they come with a charging circuit. It’s been interesting to see that which charging chip varies quite a bit. Some are integrated overvoltage and overcurrent protection chips, but others just put a couple of PNP transistors on there and call it a day. So depending on the quality of the included charge circuit, you may wish to use it… or lose it.

I included the information that I could track down about the charging components I found below.

Over Voltage and Over Current Protection IC
current limiting/overvoltage protection IC chip
PNP Transistor

PNP Small Signal Transistor

Protection Circuitry & Safety

The difference between these batteries and the nicer ones you might buy is the protection circuitry, or lack thereof. Lithium batteries can be damaged if they are drained or charged too much or too fast. Good hobby batteries will have a little circuit on them that cuts off the power when their voltage dips too low, and protects against shorts and dangerously high current with an overcurrent cutout, These batteries usually don’t have any of that, so you need to add that circuitry yourself or leave the battery connected to a charger that has protection circuitry built-in, and is set to the proper charging rate for your battery. 

To protect against accidental shorts after the battery’s out of the enclosure, I added some tape and heatshrink to the exposed contacts. Obviously it’s not a great idea to be adding any amount of heat to these batteries, so I was very judicious.

This electrical tape isn’t the best kind, either. You should use high-temp Kapton tape, but this is better than just chucking all these bare batteries in a box together.

When the device designers put these together, they knew the current draw would never exceed that of the air sensor and heater. When reusing these batteries, thermal runaway could be a real concern– if your circuit draws more current than it is rated for (the conservative rule of thumb is the battery capacity per hour), you could start an unstoppable chain reaction inside the battery that causes it to explode. Remember the Samsung Galaxy Note 7?

So in conclusion, I encourage you to pick these devices up if you see them littered, and at least get them to proper e-waste recycling, and maybe use them to power your next solar device.

Here are a few projects that I think would be a good fit for these batteries:

Thanks so much for being here and here’s wishing you safe battery harvesting.

Mermaid LED Hair

I’ve wanted to make a mermaid hair accessory since Dianna Cowern and I met in 2018. This is her idea, but she’s incapacitated by long COVID.

So I’m making this project with my hair and makeup artist, Hinano Leung, and sending our love to Dianna in spirit.


6 Easy DIY 3D Printing Projects

It’s roundup time! If you’re a longtime fan, you might remember some of these 3D printing projects from my channel. If you’re new, consider this a guided tour of some of my best.

1. Dust Port Adapter

Let’s start with a project that will come in handy if you have power tools with a different brand dust collector: a dust port adapter! These are great for keeping all that excess sawdust from getting everywhere. It’s extremely useful, prints super fast, and hardly uses any filament.

You can check out my full video on that project here.

2. LED Mason Jar Lanterns

These LED mason jars are kinda magical. When lit up, these little jars transform into warm and inviting orbs. The 3D print holds the circuit in place and you can customize them in a bunch of different ways.

Watch the video for more information.

3. DIY Candle Mold

Now, let’s try something totally different. This next project is a candle mold that you can 3D print. It’s perfect for making candles in any shape you want. This method works surprisingly well, and custom candles make great gifts.

Here‘s the full video!

4. Filament Dry Box

Once you’ve been 3D printing for a while, you will inevitably acquire a stash of filament, and you may want to start looking into filament storage solutions. Well, take this as a sign to build your own 3D printer filament dry box. This customized storage bin will keep your filament from getting damp and ruining your prints. The off-the-shelf components work with some 3D-printed parts to bring this project together quickly.

Watch the full video here.

5. Glowing LED Flower

Next, make this glowing LED flower. The stem shape holds a battery and the 10mm LED supports the flower’s petals. You can optionally use needle felting to change up the texture as well as diffuse the LED.

Check out the video.

6. Light-Up Kaleidoscope

And last but not least, here’s an awesome LED kaleidoscope made from 3D printed parts. To get started, download the files my friend Debra designed and watch our video to learn how to put it all together using wireless LEDs.

So there you have it – my top six easy DIY 3D printing projects. I hope you have as much fun making these projects as I did. Thanks for watching and happy 3D printing!

Ray-Bans Stories Teardown

Today I’m taking a look inside the Ray-Ban Stories smart glasses. They’ve got cameras, speakers, microphones, and a whole lot more crammed into these frames.

These glasses are particularly interesting because of how small and oddly shaped the electronics must be to fit entirely in the otherwise pretty normal-looking frames. Before I took them apart, I sent them off to be CT scanned by my friends at Lumafield.

Taking apart these glasses was not an easy or elegant task. The only screws I was able to remove successfully were the ones holding the arms onto the front of the frames. And even still, there were flex PCBs routed through these hinges that I broke when I tore the arms off.

This teardown is sponsored by Digi-Key, where you can pick up supplies and tools for your own electronics projects. Check out this project on their site. Thanks to David Cranor for lending his EE expertise and to Lumafield for the 3D scan.


3D Printed Light-Up Kaleidoscope

Today we’re building an LED kaleidoscope. This 3D-printed project comes together with no glue or fasteners and contains wireless LEDs to create fun patterns. The inductive power coil lives in the base.

I didn’t design this kaleidoscope– My friend Debra Ansell from Geek Mom Projects did. You can check out her tutorial to see more information about this project, access the files to make your own, or browse Debra’s other projects. You can also follow her on social media @geekmomprojects.


Dyeing Shoes + *airegan Giveaway

Today we’re dyeing shoes. I customized some Air Force Ones, Crocs, and *airegans using a few different methods: stovetop dip dye, hydro dipping with water-marbled spray paint, and hydro dipping with purpose-built printed film.

This video is sponsored by *airegan, a limited-release sneaker designed using machine learning.


My Cargo Van Build

Today I’m sharing my cargo van build, optimized for my needs in and around New York City. I got my 2006 Ford E350 in 2020. Since then I’ve been customizing it to comfortably carry everything I might need on the road, two motorcycles, and a dog or two.

I’ll take you through all the upgrades I’ve made, including installing a rear bench seat, fixing the rusty floor, making my own custom storage solution, and what I pack inside. I’ll also share more info about the supplies I used in my van build.


Remember the Whee-Lo? Makers Secret Santa 2022

This year I pulled This Old Tony‘s name for Makers Secret Santa. I was inspired by Tony’s love of benders and bending, and built him a toy from my childhood in the shape of a letter T. It’s got a magnetic spinning device that rides along the wire, and these little bends provide a turnaround point so you can, with practice, get the spinner to move continuously along the track.