(19)
(11)EP 3 316 713 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
04.11.2020 Bulletin 2020/45

(21)Application number: 16867403.4

(22)Date of filing:  15.06.2016
(51)International Patent Classification (IPC): 
A24F 40/465(2020.01)
A24F 40/485(2020.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/GB2016/051767
(87)International publication number:
WO 2017/109448 (29.06.2017 Gazette  2017/26)

(54)

ELECTRONIC VAPOUR PROVISION SYSTEM

ELEKTRONISCHES DAMPFBEREITSTELLUNGSSYSTEM

SYSTÈME DE FOURNITURE DE VAPEUR ÉLECTRONIQUE


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 29.06.2015 GB 201511361

(43)Date of publication of application:
09.05.2018 Bulletin 2018/19

(60)Divisional application:
20198504.1

(73)Proprietor: Nicoventures Holdings Limited
London WC2R 3LA (GB)

(72)Inventors:
  • FRASER, Rory
    London WC2R 3LA (GB)
  • DICKENS, Colin
    London WC2R 3LA (GB)
  • JAIN, Siddhartha
    London WC2R 3LA (GB)

(74)Representative: D Young & Co LLP 
120 Holborn
London EC1N 2DY
London EC1N 2DY (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 2 444 112
WO-A1-2015/177264
CN-A- 104 095 291
US-A1- 2014 366 898
WO-A1-2014/140320
CN-A- 101 390 659
GB-A- 2 504 732
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    Field



    [0001] The present disclosure relates to electronic vapour provision systems such as electronic nicotine delivery systems (e.g. e-cigarettes).

    Background



    [0002] Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of one example of a conventional e-cigarette 10. The e-cigarette has a generally cylindrical shape, extending along a longitudinal axis indicated by dashed line LA, and comprises two main components, namely a control unit 20 and a cartomiser 30. The cartomiser includes an internal chamber containing a reservoir of liquid formulation including nicotine, a vaporiser (such as a heater), and a mouthpiece 35. The cartomiser 30 may further include a wick or similar facility to transport a small amount of liquid from the reservoir to the heater. The control unit 20 includes a re-chargeable battery to provide power to the e-cigarette 10 and a circuit board for generally controlling the e-cigarette. When the heater receives power from the battery, as controlled by the circuit board, the heater vaporises the nicotine and this vapour (aerosol) is then inhaled by a user through the mouthpiece 35.

    [0003] The control unit 20 and cartomiser 30 are detachable from one another by separating in a direction parallel to the longitudinal axis LA, as shown in Figure 1, but are joined together when the device 10 is in use by a connection, indicated schematically in Figure 1 as 25A and 25B, to provide mechanical and electrical connectivity between the control unit 20 and the cartomiser 30. The electrical connector on the control unit 20 that is used to connect to the cartomiser also serves as a socket for connecting a charging device (not shown) when the control unit is detached from the cartomiser 30. The cartomiser 30 may be detached from the control unit 20 and disposed of when the supply of nicotine is exhausted (and replaced with another cartomiser if so desired).

    [0004] Figures 2 and 3 provide schematic diagrams of the control unit 20 and cartomiser 30 respectively of the e-cigarette of Figure 1. Note that various components and details, e.g. such as wiring and more complex shaping, have been omitted from Figures 2 and 3 for reasons of clarity. As shown in Figure 2, the control unit 20 includes a battery or cell 210 for powering the e-cigarette 10, as well as a chip, such as a (micro)controller for controlling the e-cigarette 10. The controller is attached to a small printed circuit board (PCB) 215 that also includes a sensor unit. If a user inhales on the mouthpiece, air is drawn into the e-cigarette through one or more air inlet holes (not shown in Figures 1 and 2). The sensor unit detects this airflow, and in response to such a detection, the controller provides power from the battery 210 to the heater in the cartomiser 30.

    [0005] As shown in Figure 3, the cartomiser 30 includes an air passage 161 extending along the central (longitudinal) axis of the cartomiser 30 from the mouthpiece 35 to the connector 25A for joining the cartomiser to the control unit 20. A reservoir of nicotine-containing liquid 170 is provided around the air passage 161. This reservoir 170 may be implemented, for example, by providing cotton or foam soaked in the liquid. The cartomiser also includes a heater 155 in the form of a coil for heating liquid from reservoir 170 to generate vapour to flow through air passage 161 and out through mouthpiece 35. The heater is powered through lines 166 and 167, which are in turn connected to opposing polarities (positive and negative, or vice versa) of the battery 210 via connector 25A.

    [0006] One end of the control unit provides a connector 25B for joining the control unit 20 to the connector 25A of the cartomiser 30. The connectors 25A and 25B provide mechanical and electrical connectivity between the control unit 20 and the cartomiser 30. The connector 25B includes two electrical terminals, an outer contact 240 and an inner contact 250, which are separated by insulator 260. The connector 25A likewise includes an inner electrode 175 and an outer electrode 171, separated by insulator 172. When the cartomiser 30 is connected to the control unit 20, the inner electrode 175 and the outer electrode 171 of the cartomiser 30 engage the inner contact 250 and the outer contact 240 respectively of the control unit 20. The inner contact 250 is mounted on a coil spring 255 so that the inner electrode 175 pushes against the inner contact 250 to compress the coil spring 255, thereby helping to ensure good electrical contact when the cartomiser 30 is connected to the control unit 20.

    [0007] The cartomiser connector is provided with two lugs or tabs 180A, 180B, which extend in opposite directions away from the longitudinal axis of the e-cigarette. These tabs are used to provide a bayonet fitting for connecting the cartomiser 30 to the control unit 20. It will be appreciated that other embodiments may use a different form of connection between the control unit 20 and the cartomiser 30, such as a snap fit or a screw connection.

    [0008] As mentioned above, the cartomiser 30 is generally disposed of once the liquid reservoir 170 has been depleted, and a new cartomiser is purchased and installed. In contrast, the control unit 20 is re-usable with a succession of cartomisers. Accordingly, it is particularly desirable to keep the cost of the cartomiser relatively low. One approach to doing this has been to construct a three-part device, based on (i) a control unit, (ii) a vapouriser component, and (iii) a liquid reservoir. In this three-part device, only the final part, the liquid reservoir, is disposable, whereas the control unit and the vapouriser are both re-usable. However, having a three-part device can increase the complexity, both in terms of manufacture and user operation. Moreover, it can be difficult in such a 3-part device to provide a wicking arrangement of the type shown in Figure 3 to transport liquid from the reservoir to the heater.

    [0009] Another approach is to make the cartomiser 30 re-fillable, so that it is no longer disposable. However, making a cartomiser re-fillable brings potential problems, for example, a user may try to re-fill the cartomiser with an inappropriate liquid (one not provided by the supplier of the e-cigarette). There is a risk that this inappropriate liquid may result in a low quality consumer experience, and/or may be potentially hazardous, whether by causing damage to the e-cigarette itself, or possibly by creating toxic vapours.

    [0010] Accordingly, existing approaches for reducing the cost of a disposable component (or for avoiding the need for such a disposable component) have met with only limited success.

    [0011] GB 2504732 discloses an assembly for evaporating a volatile fluid, the assembly comprising a device and a refill which are detachable from one another; wherein the device comprises a perforating element and a magnetic induction coil configured to operate with an alternating current passed therethrough at a frequency of between 20KHz and 500KHz. The refill comprises a reservoir for the volatile fluid with a sealable pierceable cover and a magnetic susceptor arranged to heat the material predominantly by magnetic hysteresis when said alternating current is passed through the induction coil. The magnetic susceptor has a coercivity of 50 ampere/metre (HC) to 1500 ampere/metre (HC) and may be embedded within the reservoir.

    Summary



    [0012] The invention is defined in the appended claims.

    [0013] Various embodiments of the invention provide an electronic vapour provision system having a longitudinal axis. The electronic vapour provision system comprises a control unit and at least one cartridge configured to engage with and disengage from the control unit substantially along said longitudinal axis. The at least one cartridge includes a reservoir of liquid to be vaporised. The electronic vapour provision system further comprises an induction heating assembly comprising at least one drive coil and a plurality of heater elements. The heaters elements are located in the at least one cartridge for vaporising said liquid into an airflow caused by user inhalation. The at least one cartridge is configured to feed liquid from the reservoir onto the heater elements for vaporisation. The at least one cartridge is located, when engaged with the control unit, such that the heater elements are within the at least one drive coil. The electronic vapour provision system is configured to support selective energisation of different heater elements from the plurality of heater elements.

    [0014] The approach described herein is not restricted to specific implementations such as set out below, but includes and contemplates any appropriate combinations of features presented herein. For example, an electronic vapour provision system may be provided in accordance with the approach described herein which includes any one or more of the various features described below as appropriate.

    Brief Description of the Drawings



    [0015] The present approach will now be described in detail by way of example only with reference to the following drawings:

    Figure 1 is a schematic (exploded) diagram illustrating an example of a known e-cigarette.

    Figure 2 is a schematic diagram of the control unit of the e-cigarette of Figure 1.

    Figure 3 is a schematic diagram of the cartomiser of the e-cigarette of Figure 1.

    Figure 4 is a schematic diagram illustrating an e-cigarette, showing the control unit assembled with the cartridge (top), the control unit by itself (middle), and the cartridge by itself (bottom).

    Figures 5 and 6 are schematic diagrams illustrating respective e-cigarettes, each of which has certain differences from the e-cigarette of Figure 4.

    Figure 7 is a schematic diagram of example control electronics for an e-cigarette such as shown in Figures 4, 5 and 6.

    Figures 7A, 7B and 7C are schematic diagrams of part of example control electronics for an e-cigarette such as shown in Figure 6.



    [0016] Please note that the above drawings shown devices and components thereof which are useful for understanding the claimed invention, but which do not necessarily fall within the scope of the claimed invention.

    Detailed Description



    [0017] Figure 4 is a schematic diagram illustrating an e-cigarette 410 (please note that the term e-cigarette is used herein interchangeably with other similar terms, such as electronic vapour provision system, electronic aerosol provision system, etc). The e-cigarette 410 includes a control unit 420 and a cartridge 430. Figure 4 shows the control unit 420 assembled with the cartridge 430 (top), the control unit by itself (middle), and the cartridge by itself (bottom). Note that for clarity, various implementation details (e.g. such as internal wiring, etc) are omitted.

    [0018] As shown in Figure 4, the e-cigarette 410 has a generally cylindrical shape with a central, longitudinal axis (denoted as LA, shown in dashed line). Note that the cross-section through the cylinder, i.e. in a plane perpendicular to the line LA, may be circular, elliptical, square, rectangular, hexagonal, or some other regular or irregular shape as desired. The general profile and shape (form factor) of the e-cigarette 410 is (or can be arranged to be) the same or broadly similar to that of e-cigarette 10 as shown in Figures 1-3. This consistency can be helpful for various reasons, such as potential to share components and packaging, user acceptance and ease of operation, brand recognition, etc.

    [0019] The mouthpiece 435 is located at one end of the cartridge 430, while the opposite end of the e-cigarette 410 (with respect to the longitudinal axis) is denoted as the tip end 424. The end of the cartridge 430 which is longitudinally opposite to the mouthpiece 435 is denoted by reference numeral 431, while the end of the control unit 420 which is longitudinally opposite to the tip end 424 is denoted by reference numeral 421.

    [0020] The cartridge 430 is able to engage with and disengage from the control unit 420 by movement along the longitudinal axis. More particularly, the end 431 of the cartridge is able to engage with, and disengage from, the end of the control unit 421. Accordingly, ends 421 and 431 will be referred to as the control unit engagement end and the cartridge engagement end respectively.

    [0021] The control unit 420 includes a battery 411 and a circuit board 415 to provide control functionality for the e-cigarette, e.g. by provision of a controller, processor, ASIC or similar form of control chip. The battery is typically cylindrical in shape, and has a central axis that lies along, or at least close to, the longitudinal axis LA of the e-cigarette. In Figure 4, the circuit board 415 is shown longitudinally spaced from the battery 411, in the opposite direction to the cartridge 430. However, the skilled person will be aware of various other locations for the circuit board 415, for example, it may be at the opposite end of the battery. A further possibility is that the circuit board 415 lies along the side of the battery - for example, with the e-cigarette 410 having a rectangular cross-section, the circuit board located adjacent one outer wall of the e-cigarette, and the battery 411 then slightly offset towards the opposite outer wall of the e-cigarette 410. Note also that the functionality provided by the circuit board 415 (as described in more detail below) may be split across multiple circuit boards and/or across devices which are not mounted to a PCB, and these additional devices and/or PCBs can be located as appropriate within the e-cigarette 410.

    [0022] The battery or cell 411 is generally re-chargeable, and one or more re-charging mechanisms may be supported. For example, a charging connection (not shown in Figure 4) may be provided at the tip end 424, and/or the engagement end 421, and/or along the side of the e-cigarette. Moreover, the e-cigarette 410 may support induction re-charging of battery 411, in addition to (or instead of) re-charging via one or more re-charging connections or sockets.

    [0023] The control unit 420 includes a tube portion 440, which extends along the longitudinal axis LA away from the engagement end 421 of the control unit. The tube portion 440 is defined on the outside by outer wall 442, which may generally be part of the overall outer wall or housing of the control unit 420, and on the inside by inner wall 424. A cavity 426 is formed by inner wall 424 of the tube portion and the engagement end 421 of the control unit 420. This cavity 426 is able to receive and accommodate at least part of a cartridge 430 as it engages with the control unit (as shown in the top drawing of Figure 4).

    [0024] The inner wall 424 and the outer wall 442 of the tube portion define an annular space which is formed around the longitudinal axis LA. A (drive or work) coil 450 is located within this annular space, with the central axis of the coil being substantially aligned with the longitudinal axis LA of the e-cigarette 410. The coil 450 is electrically connected to the battery 411 and circuit board 415, which provide power and control to the coil, so that in operation, the coil 450 is able to provide induction heating to the cartridge 430.

    [0025] The cartridge includes a reservoir 470 containing liquid formulation (typically including nicotine). The reservoir comprises a substantially annular region of the cartridge, formed between an outer wall 476 of the cartridge, and an inner tube or wall 472 of the cartridge, both of which are substantially aligned with the longitudinal axis LA of the e-cigarette 410. The liquid formulation may be held free within the reservoir 470, or alternatively the reservoir 470 may incorporated in some structure or material, e.g. sponge, to help retain the liquid within the reservoir.

    [0026] The outer wall 476 has a portion 476A of reduced cross-section. This allows this portion 476A of the cartridge to be received into the cavity 426 in the control unit in order to engage the cartridge 430 with the control unit 420. The remainder of the outer wall has a greater cross-section in order to provide increased space within the reservoir 470, and also to provide a continuous outer surface for the e-cigarette - i.e. cartridge wall 476 is substantially flush with the outer wall 442 of the tube portion 440 of the control unit 420. However, it will be appreciated that other implementations of the e-cigarette 410 may have a more complex/structured outer surface (compared with the smooth outer surface shown in Figure 4).

    [0027] The inside of the inner tube 472 defines a passageway 461 which extends, in a direction of airflow, from air inlet 461A (located at the end 431 of the cartridge that engages the control unit) through to air outlet 461B, which is provided by the mouthpiece 435. Located within the central passageway 461, and hence within the airflow through the cartridge, are heater 455 and wick 454. As can be seen in Figure 4, the heater 455 is located approximately in the centre of the drive coil 450. In particular, the location of the heater 455 along the longitudinal axis can be controlled by having the step at the start of the portion 476A of reduced cross-section for the cartridge 430 abut against the end (nearest the mouthpiece 435) of the tube portion 440 of the control unit 420 (as shown in the top diagram of Figure 4).

    [0028] The heater 455 is made of a metallic material so as to permit use as a susceptor (or workpiece) in an induction heating assembly. More particularly, the induction heating assembly comprises the drive (work) coil 450, which produces a magnetic field having high frequency variations (when suitably powered and controlled by the battery 411 and controller on PCB 415). This magnetic field is strongest in the centre of the coil, i.e. within cavity 426, where the heater 455 is located. The changing magnetic field induces eddy currents in the conductive heater 455, thereby causing resistive heating within the heater element 455. Note that the high frequency of the variations in magnetic field causes the eddy currents to be confined to the surface of the heater element (via the skin effect), thereby increasing the effective resistance of the heating element, and hence the resulting heating effect.

    [0029] Furthermore, the heater element 455 is generally selected to be a magnetic material having a high permeability, such as (ferrous) steel (rather than just a conductive material). In this case, the resistive losses due to eddy currents are supplemented by magnetic hysteresis losses (caused by repeated flipping of magnetic domains) to provide more efficient transfer of power from the drive coil 450 to the heater element 455.

    [0030] The heater is at least partly surrounded by wick 454. Wick serves to transport liquid from the reservoir 470 onto the heater 455 for vaporisation. The wick may be made of any suitable material, for example, a heat-resistant, fibrous material and typically extends from the passageway 461 through holes in the inner tube 472 to gain access into the reservoir 470. The wick 454 is arranged to supply liquid to the heater 455 in a controlled manner, in that the wick prevents the liquid leaking freely from the reservoir into passageway 461 (this liquid retention may also be assisted by having a suitable material within the reservoir itself). Instead, the wick 454 retains the liquid within the reservoir 470, and on the wick 454 itself, until the heater 455 is activated, whereupon the liquid held by the wick 454 is vaporised into the airflow, and hence travels along passageway 461 for exit via mouthpiece 435. The wick 454 then draws further liquid into itself from the reservoir 470, and the process repeats with subsequent vaporisations (and inhalations) until the cartridge is depleted.

    [0031] Although the wick 454 is shown in Figure 4 as separate from (albeit encompassing) the heater element 455, in some implementations, the heater element 455 and wick 454 may be combined together into a single component, such as a heating element made of a porous, fibrous steel material which can also act as a wick 454 (as well as a heater). In addition, although the wick 454 is shown in Figure 4 as supporting the heater element 455, in other implementations, the heater element 455 may be provided with separate supports, for example, by being mounted to the inside of tube 472 (instead of or in addition to being supported by the heater element).

    [0032] The heater 455 may be substantially planar, and perpendicular to the central axis of the coil 450 and the longitudinal axis LA of the e-cigarette, since induction primarily occurs in this plane. Although Figure 4 shows the heater 455 and wick 454 extending across the full diameter of the inner tube 472, typically the heater 455 and wick 454 will not cover the whole cross-section of the air passage-way 461. Instead, space is typically provided to allow air to flow through the inner tube from inlet 461A and around heater 455 and wick 454 to pick up the vapour produced by the heater. For example, when viewed along the longitudinal axis LA, the heater and wick may have an "O" configuration with a central hole (not shown in Figure 4) to allow for airflow along the passageway 461. Many other configurations are possible, such as the heater having a "Y" or "X" configuration. (Note that in such implementations, the arms of the "Y" or "X" would be relatively broad to provide better induction).

    [0033] Although Figure 4 shows the engagement end 431 of the cartridge as covering the air inlet 461A, this end of the cartomiser may be provided with one or more holes (not shown in Figure 4) to allow the desired air intake to be drawn into passageway 461. Note also that in the configuration shown in Figure 4, there is a slight gap 422 between the engagement end 431 of the cartridge 430 and the corresponding engagement end 421 of the control unit. Air can be drawn from this gap 422 through air inlet 461A.

    [0034] The e-cigarette may provide one or more routes to allow air to initially enter the gap 422. For example, there may be sufficient spacing between the outer wall 476A of the cartridge and the inner wall 444 of tube portion 440 to allow air to travel into gap 422. Such spacing may arise naturally if the cartridge is not a tight fit into the cavity 426. Alternatively one or more air channels may be provided as slight grooves along one or both of these walls to support this airflow. Another possibility is for the housing of the control unit 420 to be provided with one or more holes, firstly to allow air to be drawn into the control unit, and then to pass from the control unit into gap 422. For example, the holes for air intake into the control unit might be positioned as indicated in Figure 4 by arrows 428A and 428B, and engagement end 421 might be provided with one or more holes (not shown in Figure 4) for the air to pass out from the control unit 420 into gap 422 (and from there into the cartridge 430). In other implementations, gap 422 may be omitted, and the airflow may, for example, pass directly from the control unit 420 through the air inlet 461A into the cartridge 430.

    [0035] The e-cigarette may be provided with one or more activation mechanisms for the induction heater assembly, i.e. to trigger operation of the drive coil 450 to heat the heating element 455. One possible activation mechanism is to provide a button 429 on the control unit, which a user may press to active the heater. This button may be a mechanical device, a touch sensitive pad, a sliding control, etc. The heater may stay activated for as long as the user continues to press or otherwise positively actuate the button 429, subject to a maximum activation time appropriate to a single puff of the e-cigarette (typically a few seconds). If this maximum activation time is reached, the controller may automatically de-activate the induction heater to prevent over-heating. The controller may also enforce a minimum interval (again, typically for a few seconds) between successive activations.

    [0036] The induction heater assembly may also be activated by airflow caused by a user inhalation. In particular, the control unit 420 may be provided with an airflow sensor for detecting an airflow (or pressure drop) caused by an inhalation. The airflow sensor is then able to notify the controller of this detection, and the induction heater is activated accordingly. The induction heater may remain activated for as long as the airflow continues to be detected, subject again to a maximum activation time as above (and typically also a minimum interval between puffs).

    [0037] Airflow actuation of the heater may be used instead of providing button 429 (which could therefore be omitted), or alternatively the e-cigarette may require dual activation in order to operate - i.e. both the detection of airflow and the pressing of button 429. This requirement for dual activation can help to provide a safeguard against unintended activation of the e-cigarette.

    [0038] It will be appreciated that the use of an airflow sensor generally involves an airflow passing through the control unit upon inhalation, which is amenable to detection (even if this airflow only provides part of the airflow that the user ultimately inhales). If no such airflow passes through the control unit upon inhalation, then button 429 may be used for activation, although it might also be possible to provide an airflow sensor to detect an airflow passing across a surface of (rather than through) the control unit 420.

    [0039] There are various ways in which the cartridge may be retained within the control unit. For example, the inner wall 444 of the tube portion 440 of the control unit 420 and the outer wall of reduced cross-section 476A may each be provided with a screw thread (not shown in Figure 4) for mutual engagement. Other forms of mechanical engagement, such as a snap fit, a latching mechanism (perhaps with a release button or similar) may also be used. Furthermore, the control unit may be provided with additional components to provide a fastening mechanism, such as described below.

    [0040] In general terms, the attachment of the cartridge 430 to the control unit 420 for the e-cigarette 410 of Figure 4 is simpler than in the case of the e-cigarette 10 shown in Figures 1-3. In particular, the use of induction heating for e-cigarette 410 allows the connection between the cartridge 430 and the control unit 420 to be mechanical only, rather than also having to provide an electrical connection with wiring to a resistive heater. Consequently, the mechanical connection may be implemented, if so desired, by using an appropriate plastic moulding for the housing of the cartridge and the control unit; in contrast, in the e-cigarette 10 of Figures 1-3, the housings of the cartomiser and the control unit have to be somehow bonded to a metal connector. Furthermore, the connector of the e-cigarette 10 of Figures 1-3 has to be made in a relatively precise manner to ensure a reliable, low contact resistance, electrical connection between the control unit and the cartomiser. In contrast, the manufacturing tolerances for the purely mechanical connection between the cartridge 430 and the control unit 420 of e-cigarette 410 are generally greater. These factors all help to simplify the production of the cartridge and thereby to reduce the cost of this disposable (consumable) component.

    [0041] Furthermore, conventional resistive heating often utilises a metallic heating coil surrounding a fibrous wick, however, it is relatively difficult to automate the manufacture of such a structure. In contrast, an inductive heating element 455 is typically based on some form of metallic disk (or other substantially planar component), which is an easier structure to integrate into an automated manufacturing process. This again helps to reduce the cost of production for the disposable cartridge 430.

    [0042] Another benefit of inductive heating is that conventional e-cigarettes may use solder to bond power supply wires to a resistive heater coil. However, there is some concern that heat from the coil during operation of such an e-cigarette might volatise undesirable components from the solder, which would then be inhaled by a user. In contrast, there are no wires to bond to the inductive heater element 455, and hence the use of solder can be avoided within the cartridge. Also, a resistive heater coil as in a conventional e-cigarette generally comprises a wire of relatively small diameter (to increase the resistance and hence the heating effect). However, such a thin wire is relatively delicate and so may be susceptible to damage, whether through some mechanical mistreatment and/or potentially by local overheating and then melting. In contrast, a disk-shaped heater element 455 as used for induction heating is generally more robust against such damage.

    [0043] Figures 5 and 6 are schematic diagrams illustrating other example e-cigarettes. To avoid repetition, aspects of Figures 5 and 6 that are generally the same as shown in Figure 4 will not be described again, except where relevant to explain the particular features of Figures 5 and 6. Note also that reference numbers having the same last two digits typically denote the same or similar (or otherwise corresponding) components across Figures 4 to 6 (with the first digit in the reference number corresponding to the Figure containing that reference number).

    [0044] In the e-cigarette shown in Figure 5, the control unit 520 is broadly similar to the control unit 420 shown in Figure 4, however, the internal structure of the cartridge 530 is somewhat different from the internal structure of the cartridge 430 shown in Figure 4. Thus rather than having a central airflow passage, as for e-cigarette 410 of Figure 4, in which the liquid reservoir 470 surrounds the central airflow passage 461, in the e-cigarette 510 of Figure 5, the air passageway 561 is offset from the central, longitudinal axis (LA) of the cartridge. In particular, the cartridge 530 contains an internal wall 572 that separates the internal space of the cartridge 530 into two portions. A first portion, defined by internal wall 572 and one part of external wall 576, provides a chamber for holding the reservoir 570 of liquid formulation. A second portion, defined by internal wall 572 and an opposing part of external wall 576, defines the air passage way 561 through the e-cigarette 510.

    [0045] In addition, the e-cigarette 510 does not have a wick, but rather relies upon a porous heater element 555 to act both as the heating element (susceptor) and the wick to control the flow of liquid out of the reservoir 570. The porous heater element may be made, for example, of a material formed from sintering or otherwise bonding together steel fibres.

    [0046] The heater element 555 is located at the end of the reservoir 570 opposite to the mouthpiece 535 of the cartridge, and may form some or all of the wall of the reservoir chamber at this end. One face of the heater element is in contact with the liquid in the reservoir 570, while the opposite face of the heater element 555 is exposed to an airflow region 538 which can be considered as part of air passageway 561. In particular, this airflow region 538 is located between the heater element 555 and the engagement end 531 of the cartridge 530.

    [0047] When a user inhales on mouthpiece 435, air is drawn into the region 538 through the engagement end 531 of the cartridge 530 from gap 522 (in a similar manner to that described for the e-cigarette 410 of Figure 4). In response to the airflow (and/or in response to the user pressing button 529), the coil 550 is activated to supply power to heater 555, which therefore produces a vapour from the liquid in reservoir 570. This vapour is then drawn into the airflow caused by the inhalation, and travels along the passageway 561 (as indicated by the arrows) and out through mouthpiece 535.

    [0048] In the e-cigarette shown in Figure 6, the control unit 620 is broadly similar to the control unit 420 shown in Figure 4, but now accommodates two (smaller) cartridges 630A, and 630B. Each of these cartridges is analogous in structure to the reduced cross-section portion 476A of the cartridge 420 in Figure 4. However, the longitudinal extent of each of the cartridges 630A and 630B is only half that of the reduced cross-section portion 476A of the cartridge 420 in Figure 4, thereby allowing two cartridges to be contained within the region in e-cigarette 610 corresponding to cavity 426 in e-cigarette 410, as shown in Figure 4. In addition, the engagement end 621 of the control unit 620 may be provided, for example, with one or more struts or tabs (not shown in Figure 6) that maintain cartridges 630A, 630B in the position shown in Figure 6 (rather than closing the gap region 622).

    [0049] In the e-cigarette 610, the mouthpiece 635 may be regarded as part of the control unit 620. In particular, the mouthpiece 635 may be provided as a removable cap or lid, which can screw or clip onto and off the remainder of the control unit 620 (or any other appropriate fastening mechanism can be used). The mouthpiece cap 635 is removed from the rest of the control unit 635 to insert a new cartridge or to remove an old cartridge, and then fixed back onto the control unit for use of the e-cigarette 610.

    [0050] The operation of the individual cartridges 630A, 630B in e-cigarette 610 is similar to the operation of cartridge 430 in e-cigarette 410, in that each cartridge includes a wick 654A, 654B extending into the respective reservoir 670A, 670B. In addition, each cartridge 630A, 630B includes a heating element, 655A, 655B, accommodated in a respective wick, 654A, 654B, and may be energised by a respective coil 650A, 650B provided in the control unit 620. The heaters 655A, 655B vaporise liquid into a common passageway 661 that passes through both cartridges 630A, 630B and out through mouthpiece 635.

    [0051] The different cartridges 630A, 630B may be used, for example, to provide different flavours for the e-cigarette 610. In addition, although the e-cigarette 610 is shown as accommodating two cartridges, it will be appreciated that some devices may accommodate a larger number of cartridges. Furthermore, although cartridges 630A and 630B are the same size as one another, some devices may accommodate cartridges of differing size. For example, an e-cigarette may accommodate one larger cartridge having a nicotine-based liquid, and one or more small cartridges to provide flavour or other additives as desired.

    [0052] In some cases, the e-cigarette 610 may be able to accommodate (and operate with) a variable number of cartridges. For example, there may be a spring or other resilient device mounted on control unit engagement end 621, which tries to extend along the longitudinal axis towards the mouthpiece 635. If one of the cartridges shown in Figure 6 is removed, this spring would therefore help to ensure that the remaining cartridge(s) would be held firmly against the mouthpiece for reliable operation.

    [0053] If an e-cigarette has multiple cartridges, one option is that these are all activated by a single coil that spans the longitudinal extent of all the cartridges. Alternatively, there may an individual coil 650A, 650B for each respective cartridge 630A, 630B, as illustrated in Figure 6. A further possibility is that different portions of a single coil may be selectively energised to mimic (emulate) the presence of multiple coils.

    [0054] If an e-cigarette does have multiple coils for respective cartridges (whether really separate coils, or emulated by different sections of a single larger coil), then activation of the e-cigarette (such as by detecting airflow from an inhalation and/or by a user pressing a button) may energise all coils. The e-cigarettes 410, 510, 610 however support selective activation of the multiple coils, whereby a user can choose or specify which coil(s) to activate. For example, e-cigarette 610 may have a mode or user setting in which in response to an activation, only coil 650A is energised, but not coil 650B. This would then produce a vapour based on the liquid formulation in coil 650A, but not coil 650B. This would allow a user greater flexibility in the operation of e-cigarette 610, in terms of the vapour provided for any given inhalation (but without a user having to physically remove or insert different cartridges just for that particular inhalation).

    [0055] It will be appreciated that the various implementations of e-cigarette 410, 510 and 610 shown in Figures 4-6 are provided as examples only, and are not intended to be exhaustive. For example, the cartridge design shown in Figure 5 might be incorporated into a multiple cartridge device such as shown in Figure 6. The skilled person will be aware of many other variations that can be achieved, for example, by mixing and matching different features from different implementations, and more generally by adding, replacing and/or removing features as appropriate.

    [0056] Figure 7 is a schematic diagram of an example of the main electronic components of the e-cigarettes 410, 510, 610 of Figures 4-6. The heater element 455, which is located in the cartridge 430, may comprise any suitable structure, or combination of structures, for inductive heating. The remaining elements shown in Figure 7 are located in the control unit 420. It will be appreciated that since the control unit 420 is a re-usable device (in contrast to the cartridge 430 which is a disposable or consumable), it is acceptable to incur one-off costs in relation to production of the control unit which would not be acceptable as repeat costs in relation to the production of the cartridge. The components of the control unit 420 may be mounted on circuit board 415, or may be separately accommodated in the control unit 420 to operate in conjunction with the circuit board 415 (if provided), but without being physically mounted on the circuit board itself.

    [0057] As shown in Figure 7, the control unit includes a re-chargeable battery 411, which is linked to a re-charge connector or socket 725, such as a micro-USB interface. This connector 725 supports re-charging of battery 411. Alternatively, or additionally, the control unit may also support re-charging of battery 411 by a wireless connection (such as by induction charging).

    [0058] The control unit 420 further includes a controller 715 (such as a processor or application specific integrated circuit, ASIC), which is linked to a pressure or airflow sensor 716. The controller may activate the induction heating, as discussed in more detail below, in response to the sensor 716 detecting an airflow. In addition, the control unit 420 further includes a button 429, which may also be used to activate the induction heating, as described above.

    [0059] Figure 7 also shows a comms/user interface 718 for the e-cigarette. This may comprise one or more facilities according to the particular implementation. For example, the user interface may include one or more lights and/or a speaker to provide output to the user, for example to indicate a malfunction, battery charge status, etc. The interface 718 may also support wireless communications, such as Bluetooth or near field communications (NFC), with an external device, such as a smartphone, laptop, computer, notebook, tablet etc. The e-cigarette may utilise this comms interface to output information such as device status, usage statistics etc to the external device, for ready access by a user. The comms interface may also be utilised to allow the e-cigarette to receive instructions, such as configuration settings entered by the user into the external device. For example, the user interface 718 and controller 715 may be utilised to instruct the e-cigarette to selectively activate different coils 650A, 650B (or portions thereof), as described above. In some cases, the comms interface 718 may use the work coil 450 to act as an antenna for wireless communications.

    [0060] The controller may be implemented using one or more chips as appropriate. The operations of the controller 715 are generally controlled at least in part by software programs running on the controller. Such software programs may be stored in non-volatile memory, such as ROM, which can be integrated into the controller 715 itself, or provided as a separate component (not shown). The controller 715 may access the ROM to load and execute individual software programs as and when required.

    [0061] The controller controls the inductive heating of the e-cigarette by determining when the device is or is not properly activated - for example, whether an inhalation has been detected, and whether the maximum time period for an inhalation has not yet been exceeded. If the controller determines that the e-cigarette is to be activated for vaping, the controller arranges for the battery 411 to supply power to the inverter 712. The inverter 712 is configured to convert the DC output from the battery 411 into an alternating current signal, typically of relatively high frequency - e.g. 1 MHz (although other frequencies, such as 5kHz, 20 kHz, 80 KHz, or 300kHz, or any range defined by two such values, may be used instead). This AC signal is then passed from the inverter to the work coil 450, via suitable impedance matching (not shown in Figure 7) if so required.

    [0062] The work coil 450 may be integrated into some form of resonant circuit, such as by combining in parallel with a capacitor (not shown in Figure 7), with the output of the inverter 712 tuned to the resonant frequency of this resonant circuit. This resonance causes a relatively high current to be generated in work coil 450, which in turn produces a relatively high magnetic field in heater element 455, thereby causing rapid and effective heating of the heater element 455 to produce the desired vapour or aerosol output.

    [0063] Figure 7A illustrates part of the control electronics for an e-cigarette 610 having multiple coils in accordance with some implementations (while omitting for clarity aspects of the control electronics not directly related to the multiple coils). Figure 7A shows a power source 782A (typically corresponding to the battery 411 and inverter 712 of Figure 7), a switch configuration 781A, and the two work coils 650A, 650B, each associated with a respective heater element 655A, 655B as shown in Figure 6 (but not included in Figure 7A). The switch configuration has three outputs denoted A, B and C in Figure 7A. It is also assumed that there is a current path between the two work coils 650A, 650B.

    [0064] In order to operate the induction heating assembly, two out of three of these outputs are closed (to permit current flow), while the remaining output stays open (to prevent current flow). Closing outputs A and C activates both coils, and hence both heater elements 655A, 655B; closing A and B selectively activates just work coil 650A; and closing B and C activates just work coil 650B.

    [0065] Although it is possible to treat work coils 650A and 650B just as a single overall coil (which is either on or off together), the ability to selectively energise either or both of work coils 650A and 650B, such as provided by the implementation of Figure 7, has a number of advantages, including:
    1. a) choosing the vapour components (e.g. flavourants) for a given puff. Thus activating just work coil 650A produces vapour just from reservoir 670A; activating just work coil 650B produces vapour just from reservoir 670B; and activating both work coils 650A, 650B produces a combination of vapours from both reservoirs 670A, 670B.
    2. b) controlling the amount of vapour for a given puff. For example, if reservoir 670A and reservoir 670B in fact contain the same liquid, then activating both work coils 650A, 650B can be used to produce a stronger (higher vapour level) puff compared to activating just one work coil by itself.
    3. c) prolonging battery (charge) lifetime. As already discussed, it may be possible to operate the e-cigarette of Figure 6 when it contains just a single cartridge, e.g. 630B (rather than also including cartridge 630A). In this case, it is more efficient just to energise the work coil 650B corresponding to cartridge 630B, which is then used to vaporise liquid from reservoir 670B. In contrast, if the work coil 650A corresponding to the (missing) cartridge 630A is not energised (because this cartridge and the associated heater element 650A are missing from e-cigarette 610), then this saves power consumption without reducing vapour output.


    [0066] Although the e-cigarette 610 of Figure 6 has a separate heater element 655A, 655B for each respective work coil 650A, 650B, in some implementations, different work coils may energise different portions of a single (larger) workpiece or susceptor. Accordingly, in such an e-cigarette, the different heater elements 655A, 655B may represent different portions of the larger susceptor, which is shared across different work coils. Additionally (or alternatively), the multiple work coils 650A, 650B may represent different portions of a single overall drive coil, individual portions of which can be selectively energised, as discussed above in relation to Figure 7A.

    [0067] If the multiple heater elements are being used to control the amount of vapour for a given puff, then having a larger number of heater elements, e.g. more than the two shown in Figure 7A, will give a better granularity of control. It will also be appreciated that the vapour amount can be increased by supplying more electrical power to each work coil for energising the corresponding heater element, however, there are limits on the practicality of this. For example, providing too much power may result in a very high temperature for the heater element, which may alter the chemical constitution of the vapour, as well as presenting a potential safety concern.

    [0068] Figure 7B shows another implementation for supporting selectivity across multiple work coils 650A, 650B. Thus in Figure 7B, it is assumed that the work coils are not electrically connected to one another, but rather each work coil 650A, 650B is individually (separately) linked to the power source 782B via a pair of independent connections through switch configuration 781B. In particular, work coil 650A is linked to power source 782B via switch connections A1 and A2, and work coil 650B is linked to power source 782B via switch connections B1 and B2. This configuration of Figure 7B offers similar advantages to those discussed above in relation to Figure 7A. In addition, the architecture of Figure 7B may also be readily scaled up to work with more than two work coils.

    [0069] Figure 7C shows another implementation for supporting selectivity across multiple work coils, in this case three work coils denoted 650A, 650B and 650C. Each work coil is directly connected to a respect power supply 782C1, 782C2 and 782C3. The configuration of Figure 7 may support the selective energisation of any single work coil, 650A, 650B, 650C, or of any pair of work coils at the same time, or of all three work coils at the same time.

    [0070] In the configuration of Figure 7C, at least some portions of the power supply 782 may be replicated for each of the different work coils 650. For example, each power supply 782C1, 782C2, 782C3 may include its own inverter, but they may share a single, ultimate power source, such as battery 411. In this case, the battery 411 may be connected to the inverters via a switch configuration analogous to that shown in Figure 7B (but for DC rather than AC current). Alternatively, each respective power line from a power supply 782 to a work coil 650 may be provided with its own individual switch, which can be closed to activate the work coil (or opened to prevent such activation). In this arrangement, the collection of these individual switches across the different lines can be regarded as another form of switch configuration.

    [0071] There are various ways in which the switching of Figures 7A-7C may be managed or controlled. In some cases, the user may operate a mechanical or physical switch that directly sets the switch configuration. For example, e-cigarette 610 may include a switch (not shown in Figure 6) on the outer housing, whereby cartridge 630A can be activated in one setting, and cartridge 630B can be activated in another setting. A further setting of the switch may allow activation of both cartridges together. Alternatively, the control unit 610 may have a separate button associated with each cartridge, and the user holds down the button for the desired cartridge (or potentially both buttons if both cartridges should be activated). Another possibility is that a button or other input device on the e-cigarette may be used to select a stronger puff (and result in switching on both or all work coils). Such a button may also be used to select the addition of a flavour, and the switching might operate a work coil associated with that flavour - typically in addition to a work coil for the base liquid containing nicotine. The skilled person will be aware of other possible implementations of such switching.

    [0072] In some e-cigarettes, rather than direct (e.g. mechanical or physical) control of the switch configuration, the user may set the switch configuration via the comms/user interface 718 shown in Figure 7 (or any other similar facility). For example, this interface may allow a user to specify the use of different flavours or cartridges (and/or different strength levels), and the controller 715 can then set the switch configuration 781 according to this user input.

    [0073] A further possibility is that the switch configuration may be set automatically. For example, e-cigarette 610 may prevent work coil 650A from being activated if a cartridge is not present in the illustrated location of cartridge 630A. In other words, if no such cartridge is present, then the work coil 650A may not be activated (thereby saving power, etc).

    [0074] There are various mechanisms available for detecting whether or not a cartridge is present. For example, the control unit 620 may be provided with a switch which is mechanically operated by inserting a cartridge into the relevant position. If there is no cartridge in position, then the switch is set so that the corresponding work coil is not powered. Another approach would be for the control unit to have some optical or electrical facility for detecting whether or not a cartridge is inserted into a given position.

    [0075] Note that in some devices, once a cartridge has been detected as in position, then the corresponding work coil is always available for activation - e.g. it is always activated in response to a puff (inhalation) detection. In other devices that support both automatic and user-controlled switch configuration, even if a cartridge has been detected as in position, a user setting (or such-like, as discussed above) may then determine whether or not the cartridge is available for activation on any given puff.

    [0076] Although the control electronics of Figures 7A-7C have been described in connection with the use of multiple cartridges, such as shown in Figure 6, they may also be utilised in respect of a single cartridge that has multiple heater elements. In other words, the control electronics is able to selectively energise one or more of these multiple heater elements within the single cartridge. Such an approach may still offer the benefits discussed above. For example, if the cartridge contains multiple heater elements, but just a single, shared reservoir, or multiple heater elements, each with its own respective reservoir, but all reservoirs containing the same liquid, then energising more or fewer heater elements provides a way for a user to increase or decrease the amount of vapour provided with a single puff. Similarly, if a single cartridge contains multiple heater elements, each with its own respective reservoir containing a particular liquid, then energising different heater elements (or combinations thereof) provides a way for a user to selectively consume vapours for different liquids (or combinations thereof).

    [0077] In some e-cigarettes, the various work coils and their respective heater elements (whether implemented as separate work coils and/or heater elements, or as portions of a larger drive coil and/or susceptor) may all be substantially the same as one another, to provide a homogeneous configuration. Alternatively, a heterogeneous configuration may be utilised. For example, with reference to e-cigarette 610 as shown in Figure 6, one cartridge 630A may be arranged to heat to a lower temperature than the other cartridge 630B, and/or to provide a lower output of vapour (by providing less heating power). Thus if one cartridge 630A contains the main liquid formulation containing nicotine, while the other cartridge 630B contains a flavourant, it may be desirable for cartridge 630A to output more vapour than cartridge 630B. Also, the operating temperature of each heater element 655 may be arranged according to the liquid(s) to be vaporised. For example, the operating temperature should be high enough to vaporise the relevant liquid(s) of a particular cartridge, but typically not so high as to chemically break down (disassociate) such liquids.

    [0078] There are various ways of providing different operating characteristics (such as temperature) for different combinations of work coils and heater elements, and thereby produce a heterogeneous configuration as discussed above. For example, the physical parameters of the work coils and/or heater elements may be varied as appropriate - e.g. different sizes, geometry, materials, number of coil turns, etc. Additionally (or alternatively), the operating parameters of the work coils and/or heater elements may be varied, such as by having different AC frequencies and/or different supply currents for the work coils.

    [0079] In order to address various issues and advance the art, this disclosure shows by way of illustration various embodiments in which the claimed invention(s) may be practiced. The advantages and features of the disclosure are of a representative sample of embodiments only, and are not exhaustive and/or exclusive. They are presented only to assist in understanding and to teach the claimed invention(s). It is to be understood that advantages, embodiments, examples, functions, features, structures, and/or other aspects of the disclosure are not to be considered limitations on the disclosure as defined by the claims or limitations on equivalents to the claims, and that other embodiments may be utilised and modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the claims. Various embodiments may suitably comprise, consist of, or consist essentially of, various combinations of the disclosed elements, components, features, parts, steps, means, etc other than those specifically described herein. The disclosure may include other inventions not presently claimed, but which may be claimed in future.


    Claims

    1. An electronic vapour provision system (610) having a longitudinal axis (LA) and comprising:

    a control unit (620) and at least one cartridge (630) configured to engage with and disengage from the control unit substantially along said longitudinal axis, the at least one cartridge including a reservoir (670) of liquid to be vaporised; and

    an induction heating assembly comprising at least one drive coil (450) and a plurality of heater elements (655A, 655B), wherein the heaters elements are located in the at least one cartridge for vaporising said liquid, the at least one cartridge being configured to feed liquid from the reservoir onto the heater elements for vaporisation into an airflow caused by user inhalation, the at least one cartridge being located, when engaged with the control unit, such that the heater elements are within the at least one drive coil, and

    wherein the electronic vapour provision system is configured to support selective energisation of different heater elements from the plurality of heater elements.


     
    2. The electronic vapour provision system of claim 1, wherein the system supports selective energisation of any individual heater element from the plurality of heater elements.
     
    3. The electronic vapour provision system of claim 2, wherein the system supports selective energisation of any subset of one or more individual heater elements from the plurality of heater elements.
     
    4. The electronic vapour provision system of any preceding claim, wherein the system supports energisation of all the heater elements from the plurality of heater elements.
     
    5. The electronic vapour provision system of any preceding claim, wherein the plurality of heater elements are located in one cartridge.
     
    6. The electronic vapour provision system of any of claims 1 to 4, further comprising a plurality of cartridges (630A, 630B), wherein each cartridge contains a respective heater element (655A, 655B).
     
    7. The electronic vapour provision system of any preceding claim, wherein the plurality of heater elements correspond to different portions of a single susceptor.
     
    8. The electronic vapour provision system of any of claims 1 to 6, wherein each of the plurality of heater elements is a separate susceptor.
     
    9. The electronic vapour provision system of any preceding claim, wherein there is one drive coil having a plurality of portions, each portion corresponding to a respective heater element, and wherein each of the heater elements may be selectively energised by activating the corresponding portion of the drive coil.
     
    10. The electronic vapour provision system of any of claims 1 to 8, wherein there is a separate drive coil (630A, 630B) corresponding to each respective heater element (655A, 655B), and wherein each of the heater elements may be selectively energised by activating the corresponding drive coil.
     
    11. The electronic vapour provision system of any preceding claim, further comprising a switch configuration (781A, 781B) located between a battery (411) in the control unit and the at least one drive coil to support selective energisation of different heater elements from the plurality of heater elements, and optionally wherein a user can directly determine the setting of the switch configuration to perform selective energisation.
     
    12. The electronic vapour provision system of claim 11, wherein the control unit further comprises at least one of:

    a user interface or a communications interface (718) for receiving settings information from a user, and wherein the electronic vapour provision system further includes a controller (715) for setting the switch configuration based on the settings information received from the user;

    a facility for automatically setting the switch configuration based on the presence or absence of a cartridge in the control unit.


     
    13. The electronic vapour provision system of any preceding claim, wherein the induction heating assembly is configured so that different heating elements have different operational heating characteristics, and optionally wherein the different operational heating characteristics are at least one of temperature and heating power.
     
    14. A control unit (620) for use with an electronic vapour provision system (610) having a longitudinal axis (LA), the electronic vapour provision system including a control unit, and at least one cartridge (630) configured to engage with and disengage from the control unit substantially along said longitudinal axis, the at least one cartridge including a reservoir (670) of liquid to be vaporised into an airflow caused by user inhalation, the control unit including a rechargeable battery (411), at least one drive coil (450) for energising, by inductive heating, a plurality of heater elements (655A, 655B) located in the at least one cartridge for vaporising said liquid when the heater elements are within the at least one drive coil, and wherein the control unit is configured to support selective energisation of different heater elements from the plurality of heater elements; wherein the control unit comprises a re-charging connector or socket (725) to support recharging of the rechargeable battery, and / or the control unit is configured to support re-charging of the rechargeable battery by a wireless connection.
     
    15. A cartridge (630) for use with an electronic vapour provision system (610) having a longitudinal axis (LA), the electronic vapour provision system including a control unit and at least one cartridge configured to engage with and disengage from the control unit substantially along said longitudinal axis, the at least one cartridge including an airflow passageway (661) which extends from an air inlet at one end of the cartridge and a reservoir (670) of liquid to be vaporised into an airflow caused by user inhalation in the airflow passageway, and a plurality of inductive heater elements (655A, 655B) for vaporising said liquid when the heater elements located are within the at least one drive coil (450) of the control unit, and wherein the electronic vapour provision system is configured to support selective energisation of different heater elements from the plurality of heater elements.
     


    Ansprüche

    1. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem (610), eine Längsachse (LA) aufweisend und Folgendes umfassend:

    eine Steuereinheit (620) und zumindest eine Patrone (630), dazu ausgelegt, im Wesentlichen entlang der Längsachse in die Steuereinheit einzugreifen und sich von dieser zu trennen, wobei die zumindest eine Patrone einen Behälter (670) mit zu verdampfender Flüssigkeit umfasst; und

    eine Induktionsheizanordnung, umfassend zumindest eine Antriebsspule (450) und mehrere Heizelemente (655A, 655B), wobei die Heizelemente in der zumindest einen Patrone befindlich sind zum Verdampfen der Flüssigkeit, wobei die zumindest eine Patrone dazu ausgelegt ist, Flüssigkeit vom Behälter auf die Heizelemente zuzuführen zur Verdampfung in einen durch Inhalation eines Benutzers verursachten Luftstrom, wobei die zumindest eine Patrone, wenn sie im Eingriff mit der Steuereinheit ist, so positioniert ist, dass die Heizelemente innerhalb der zumindest einen Antriebsspule sind, und

    wobei das elektronische Dampfbereitstellungssystem dazu ausgelegt ist, die gezielte Erregung von unterschiedlichen Heizelementen aus den mehreren Heizelementen zu unterstützen.


     
    2. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach Anspruch 1, wobei das System die gezielte Erregung eines beliebigen einzelnen Heizelements aus den mehreren Heizelementen unterstützt.
     
    3. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach Anspruch 2, wobei das System die gezielte Erregung einer beliebigen Untermenge aus einem oder mehreren einzelnen Heizelementen aus den mehreren Heizelementen unterstützt.
     
    4. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei das System die Erregung aller Heizelemente aus den mehreren Heizelementen unterstützt.
     
    5. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die mehreren Heizelemente in einer Patrone befindlich sind.
     
    6. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, ferner umfassend mehrere Patronen (630A, 630B), wobei jede Patrone ein entsprechendes Heizelement (655A, 655B) enthält.
     
    7. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die mehreren Heizelemente unterschiedlichen Teilen eines einzelnen Suszeptors entsprechen.
     
    8. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei jedes der mehreren Heizelemente ein separater Suszeptor ist.
     
    9. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei es eine Antriebsspule mit mehreren Teilen gibt, wobei jeder Teil einem jeweiligen Heizelement entspricht und wobei jedes der Heizelemente gezielt erregt werden kann durch Aktivieren des entsprechenden Teils der Antriebsspule.
     
    10. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 8, wobei es eine separate Antriebsspule (630A, 630B) gibt, die jeweils den einzelnen Heizelementen (655A, 655B) entspricht, und wobei jedes der Heizelemente gezielt erregt werden kann durch Aktivieren der entsprechenden Antriebsspule.
     
    11. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, ferner umfassend eine Schalterauslegung (781A, 781B), befindlich zwischen einer Batterie (411) in der Steuereinheit und der zumindest einen Antriebsspule zum Unterstützen der gezielten Erregung von unterschiedlichen Heizelementen aus den mehreren Heizelementen, und wobei optional ein Benutzer direkt die Einstellung der Schalterauslegung zum Durchführen der gezielten Erregung bestimmen kann.
     
    12. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach Anspruch 11, wobei die Steuereinheit ferner zumindest eines aus Folgendem umfasst:

    eine Benutzerschnittstelle oder eine Kommunikationsschnittstelle (718) zum Empfangen von Einstellungsinformationen von einem Benutzer, und wobei das elektronische Dampfbereitstellungssystem ferner eine Steuerung (715) zum Einstellen der Schalterauslegung basierend auf den vom Benutzer empfangenen Einstellungsinformationen umfasst;

    eine Einrichtung zum automatischen Einstellen der Schalterauslegung basierend auf der Anwesenheit oder Abwesenheit einer Patrone in der Steuereinheit.


     
    13. Elektronisches Dampfbereitstellungssystem nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche, wobei die Induktionsheizanordnung so ausgelegt ist, dass unterschiedliche Heizelemente unterschiedliche operative Heizcharakteristiken aufweisen und wobei optional die unterschiedlichen operativen Heizcharakteristiken zumindest eines aus Temperatur und Heizleistung sind.
     
    14. Steuereinheit (620) zur Verwendung mit einem elektronischen Dampfbereitstellungssystem (610) mit einer Längsachse (LA), wobei das elektronische Dampfbereitstellungssystem eine Steuereinheit und zumindest eine Patrone (630) umfasst, dazu ausgelegt, im Wesentlichen entlang der Längsachse in die Steuereinheit einzugreifen und sich von dieser zu trennen, wobei die zumindest eine Patrone einen Behälter (670) mit in einen durch Inhalation eines Benutzers verursachten Luftstrom zu verdampfender Flüssigkeit umfasst, wobei die Steuereinheit eine wiederaufladbare Batterie (411), zumindest eine Antriebsspule (450) zum Erregen, durch induktives Heizen, von mehreren Heizelementen (655A, 655B) umfasst, befindlich in der zumindest einen Patrone zum Verdampfen der Flüssigkeit, wenn die Heizelemente innerhalb der zumindest einen Antriebsspule sind, und wobei die Steuereinheit dazu ausgelegt ist, gezielte Erregung von unterschiedlichen Heizelementen aus den mehreren Heizelementen zu unterstützen; wobei die Steuereinheit einen Wiederaufladesteckverbinder oder eine Buchse (725) zum Unterstützen des Wiederaufladens der wiederaufladbaren Batterie umfasst, und/oder wobei die Steuereinheit dazu ausgelegt ist, das Wiederaufladen der wiederaufladbaren Batterie durch eine kabellose Verbindung zu unterstützen.
     
    15. Patrone (630) zur Verwendung mit einem elektronischen Dampfbereitstellungssystem (610) mit einer Längsachse (LA), wobei das elektronische Dampfbereitstellungssystem eine Steuereinheit und zumindest eine Patrone umfasst, dazu ausgelegt, im Wesentlichen entlang der Längsachse in die Steuereinheit einzugreifen und sich von dieser zu trennen, wobei die zumindest eine Patrone einen Luftstromdurchgang (661) umfasst, der sich von einem Lufteinlass an einem Ende der Patrone und einem Behälter (670) mit in einen durch Inhalation eines Benutzers verursachten Luftstrom im Luftstromdurchgang zu verdampfender Flüssigkeit und mehreren induktiven Heizelementen (655A, 655B) zum Verdampfen der Flüssigkeit, wenn sich die Heizelemente innerhalb der zumindest einen Antriebsspule (450) der Steuereinheit befinden, erstreckt, und wobei das elektronische Dampfbereitstellungssystem dazu ausgelegt ist, gezielte Erregung von unterschiedlichen Heizelementen der mehreren Heizelemente zu unterstützen.
     


    Revendications

    1. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur (610) ayant un axe longitudinal (LA) et comprenant :

    une unité de commande (620) et au moins une cartouche (630) configurée pour s'enclencher avec et se désenclencher de l'unité de commande sensiblement le long dudit axe longitudinal, l'au moins une cartouche comportant un réservoir (670) de liquide à vaporiser ; et

    un ensemble de chauffage par induction comprenant au moins une bobine d'excitation (450) et une pluralité d'éléments chauffants (655A, 655B), les éléments chauffants se trouvant dans l'au moins une cartouche pour vaporiser ledit liquide, l'au moins une cartouche étant configurée pour appliquer du liquide depuis le réservoir sur les éléments chauffants pour vaporisation dans un courant d'air provoqué par l'inhalation d'un utilisateur, l'au moins une cartouche étant positionnée, lorsqu'elle est enclenchée avec l'unité de commande, de telle sorte que les éléments chauffants se trouvent à l'intérieur de l'au moins une bobine d'excitation, et

    le système électronique de délivrance de vapeur étant configuré pour prendre en charge l'alimentation sélective de différents éléments chauffants parmi la pluralité d'éléments chauffants.


     
    2. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur de la revendication 1, le système prenant en charge l'alimentation sélective de n'importe quel élément chauffant individuel parmi la pluralité d'éléments chauffants.
     
    3. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur de la revendication 2, le système prenant en charge l'alimentation sélective de n'importe quel sous-ensemble d'un ou plusieurs éléments chauffants individuels parmi la pluralité d'éléments chauffants.
     
    4. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur d'une quelconque revendication précédente, le système prenant en charge l'alimentation de tous les éléments chauffants parmi la pluralité d'éléments chauffants.
     
    5. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur d'une quelconque revendication précédente, dans lequel la pluralité d'éléments chauffants se trouvent dans une cartouche.
     
    6. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur de l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, comprenant en outre une pluralité de cartouches (630A, 630B), chaque cartouche contenant un élément chauffant respectif (655A, 655B).
     
    7. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur d'une quelconque revendication précédente, dans lequel la pluralité d'éléments chauffants correspondent à différentes parties d'un seul suscepteur.
     
    8. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur de l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 6, dans lequel chacun de la pluralité d'éléments chauffants est un suscepteur distinct.
     
    9. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur d'une quelconque revendication précédente, dans lequel il y a une bobine d'excitation ayant une pluralité de parties, chaque partie correspondant à un élément chauffant respectif, et dans lequel chacun des éléments chauffants peut être sélectivement alimenté par activation de la partie correspondante de la bobine d'excitation.
     
    10. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur de l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 8, dans lequel il y a une bobine d'excitation distincte (630A, 630B) correspondant à chaque élément chauffant respectif (655A, 655B), et dans lequel chacun des éléments chauffants peut être sélectivement alimenté par activation de la bobine d'excitation correspondante.
     
    11. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur d'une quelconque revendication précédente, comprenant en outre une configuration de commutation (781A, 781B) se trouvant entre une batterie (411) dans l'unité de commande et l'au moins une bobine d'excitation pour prendre en charge l'alimentation sélective de différents éléments chauffants parmi la pluralité d'éléments chauffants, et éventuellement dans lequel un utilisateur peut déterminer directement le réglage de la configuration de commutation pour effectuer une alimentation sélective.
     
    12. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur de la revendication 11, dans lequel l'unité de commande comprend en outre au moins un élément parmi :

    une interface utilisateur ou une interface de communication (718) destinée à recevoir des informations de réglage de la part d'un utilisateur, et le système électronique de délivrance de vapeur comportant en outre un contrôleur (715) destiné à régler la configuration de commutation sur la base des informations de réglage reçues de la part de l'utilisateur ;

    une installation destinée à régler automatiquement la configuration de commutation sur la base de la présence ou l'absence d'une cartouche dans l'unité de commande.


     
    13. Système électronique de délivrance de vapeur d'une quelconque revendication précédente, dans lequel l'ensemble de chauffage par induction est configuré de telle sorte que des éléments chauffants différents ont des caractéristiques opérationnelles de chauffage différentes, et éventuellement dans lequel les différentes caractéristiques opérationnelles de chauffage en sont au moins une parmi la température et la puissance de chauffage.
     
    14. Unité de commande (620) à utiliser avec un système électronique de délivrance de vapeur (610) ayant un axe longitudinal (LA), le système électronique de délivrance de vapeur comportant une unité de commande, et au moins une cartouche (630) configurée pour s'enclencher avec et se désenclencher de l'unité de commande sensiblement le long dudit axe longitudinal, l'au moins une cartouche comportant un réservoir (670) de liquide à vaporiser dans un courant d'air provoqué par l'inhalation d'un utilisateur, l'unité de commande comportant une batterie rechargeable (411), au moins une bobine d'excitation (450) destinée à alimenter, par chauffage par induction, une pluralité d'éléments chauffants (655A, 655B) se trouvant dans l'au moins une cartouche pour vaporiser ledit liquide quand les éléments chauffants se trouvent à l'intérieur de l'au moins une bobine d'excitation, et l'unité de commande étant configurée pour prendre en charge l'alimentation sélective de différents éléments chauffants parmi la pluralité d'éléments chauffants ; l'unité de commande comprenant un connecteur ou prise de recharge (725) pour prendre en charge la recharge de la batterie rechargeable, et/ou l'unité de commande étant configurée pour prendre en charge la recharge de la batterie rechargeable par une connexion sans fil.
     
    15. Cartouche (630) à utiliser avec un système électronique de délivrance de vapeur (610) ayant un axe longitudinal (LA), le système électronique de délivrance de vapeur comportant une unité de commande et au moins une cartouche configurée pour s'enclencher avec et se désenclencher de l'unité de commande sensiblement le long dudit axe longitudinal, l'au moins une cartouche comportant un passage de courant d'air (661) qui s'étend depuis une entrée d'air à une extrémité de la cartouche et un réservoir (670) de liquide à vaporiser dans un courant d'air provoqué par l'inhalation d'un utilisateur dans le passage de courant d'air, et une pluralité d'éléments chauffants inductifs (655A, 655B) destinés à vaporiser ledit liquide quand les éléments chauffants se trouvent à l'intérieur de l'au moins une bobine d'excitation (450) de l'unité de commande, et le système électronique de délivrance de vapeur étant configuré pour prendre en charge l'alimentation sélective de différents éléments chauffants parmi la pluralité d'éléments chauffants.
     




    Drawing























    Cited references

    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description