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While I'm not a huge fan of using lithium cells a single time and then discarding them, I'm fine with a free source of rechargeable cells lying on the ground.
These popular disposable inhaler devices are based around the same circuitry as the fully rechargeable ones, simply because it's the cheapest way to make them.
I guess some people just want a quick easy fix and these Chinese made devices cater to that market.
If you're willing to finger things that people have had in their mouth (Like coffee shop cups and pub glasses) then popping these devices open usually reveals a very useful rechargeable cell with a rating of between 250mAh to 600mAh. Perfect for replacing spent or faulty cells in many devices, noting that the salvaged cells don't have the usual protection PCB for overcharge, discharge and current protection. As long as the device they are used in has charge control on the PCB to limit the charge to 4.2V, then it should be fine. You could also stick a cell to one of the many TP4056 charge controller PCBs if you want the full works.
All the cells I've tested have been fully rechargeable, but always proceed with caution when testing this, and never use damaged cells. Also make sure you wear disposable gloves if handling the fluid cartridges in these devices as they are aimed at hard-core smoke inhalers and have a high percentage of knicker-tin.
If you want to go the full hog and reuse a complete device then the geek-bar one was the nicest and most reusable design for the technically inclined.
If you enjoy these videos you can help support the channel with a dollar for coffee, cookies and random gadgets for disassembly at:-
This also keeps the channel independent of YouTube's advertising algorithms allowing it to be a bit more dangerous and naughty.

This video is about disposable items like these that contain lithium cells and if you see these lying discarded in the street, you pick them up keeping hygiene in mind, because these are handled and put in people's mouths and things like that. But if you were to pick it up in a hygienic manner, you can then scavenge cells and in the early days, the little dinky ones. I've had this one open. You can see it used to be a little 250-ish milliamp power cell inside, but for some reason they've got they've got bigger, they've got they've grown up, and now they contain a very useful 500 milliamp hour cell or higher.

I think this one contains one. That's slightly bigger, so let's explore these and let's talk about them, so i think this may be the most popular one in the uk at the moment. So, let's put these other ones out the side and this kind of thing started because last time i was visiting glasgow, i saw a yellow one of these just lying on the ground and after walking past, i thought oh there's one of those disposable things and i Thought then i said i walked on a bit and thought. Oh, i really want to take you to bits but covid and all that, but i went back and picked it up like that and carried it home, like that, gave a thorough sterilization when i got into the house and then took it to bits.

And here is what i found it came apart quite easily very odd construction. It's got a clear outer shell, which gives a very deep glossy look, and it's got an end cap that comes off. Is this going to come off easily? The other one did? Oh? No. Maybe it won't come off easily, it's notable to say not refillable.

This is not coming off easily. Oh there we go oh right. Okay, so uh here is the assembly sliding out with oh look at that juicy lithium cell. Here's the bit! That's not refillable, but here is the odd bit for a disposable item this bit here unplugs and it's a really simple construction.

They've got the liquid cartridge here for ah the glyco-based drug delivery, thing and they've got gold-plated pins and i guess it's modular. So you know whatever flavor it is. They can put the little uh microphone pressure sensor, cartridge in they can put this universal lithium cell in and then they can get this pre-filled cartridge just basically plug them together and uh slot it into this cartridge and then just put them out. It's designed for mass manufacturer most of these appear to be made in china made and filled in china.

I presume uh, but anyway, let's take a look at this cell. Actually, i can show you the cell, because that's exactly the cell here 8016 hold on. Let's see if there are the same numbers 801640, i went in ebay just to find out initially what the capacity of this was rated at, and i found someone selling these online and they openly said there were some in packs and ebay and they said recovered from These devices um and i tested it and as uh it came from the discarded unit because, like obviously once it depletes to a certain level, people just throw it away uh, it still had a charge in it, but i discharged it and then charged it, and it Came up a good, solid, 500 milliamp hour capacity. I think that's worth putting the test for other things, uh technically speaking, then, if this is a standard circuitry used in the non-disposable ones, maybe you could charge it via those pins and as for the refilling, then i guess yeah.

That's not. You know it's completely reusable to people like us. I mean your average person that buys these isn't going to do that right. Tell you what let's take another one to bits and see what it's like i'm interested.

I believe this might be the second most popular in the uk. A bit tacky they've got a paper label wrap around it. Let's uh see if we can get the end off this. If this is the end, that's supposed to come off, it might not be.

Oh, it is kind of popping out oop, okay, what we got. What we got is a similar construction, all right, okay. Well, there is the the heater. This one is more traditional, hardwired, but there's our cell says 550 milliamp hour.

Now it's worth mentioning that these cells don't have the protection circle on them, uh on traditional cells. Let me see if i can find a traditional cell this one. They have a tiny little circuit board on them, and the circuit board has a dw01 chip and a mosfet dual mosfet, and the purpose of that board is for those uh, normal rechargeable ones. It's to protect the cell from overcharging and also protect it from under charging, because it's going to be reused over and over again.

It also protects it from over current because, if it detects too much current being drawn, it measures the voltage across the mosfets and that uh, if it reaches a certain threshold, will just cut off and uh standby mode until the attempt is made to charge it again. Then it that switches that back off this is very typical. It's a what size is this cell? Does it say uh hgb13, 400 r, so is that 13 millimeters diameter? Let's bring the calipers in and measure that 13 millimeters diameter, let's find out about 12 millimeters diameter. It's just zeroed yeah 12 millimeters timed about 40 millimeters long yeah about 40 millimeters long, so useful, very useful.

This one! What's the cartridge, and course about this because well it is containing quite strong. I'm not going to finger that because it, but this wicking material could be refilled if you wish, but i have to say so far. This geek bar thing looks the most refillable now what about these ones? This one feels really solid. Is this a metal case? I'm not going to demonstrate these because that's not what this video is about.

This video is not about the devices themselves, it's about salvaging the stuff from them, but the market they're aimed at appears to be people who perhaps uh now, let's pop the other end off as well, people who perhaps ooh right. Let's push this out. I will get around to finishing what i was saying there at some point. People who perhaps are used to traditional packets of the old alternative, so here is here, is: is this a cartridge again, it's a cartridge again, but it lacks the plug.

This is just a pure, hardwired thing: 500 milliamp hour again: 21, 10 29. So the lithium cell is this good. Is that the number of this it's about 8.3 millimeters, thick 17 wide and about 30 six millimeters long? Does that really equate to that? It doesn't really does it. 80 1840.

Is that eight millimeters thick 18 millimeters wide and 40 long hold on. Oh there we go eight millimeters thick uh, 18 millimeters wide yeah. There's there's the number. It's a it's a 80 1840 500 milliamp hour cell again.

It doesn't really protection circuit because it doesn't need it because in this case, it's a disposable item. Isn't that outrageous that it's disposable, but i think in this case it's just the cheapest way to do it right. Let's continue what about this thing, i bought these by the way just to take to bits just to assess them for uh internal ribbons this one. What's this cell three-point symbol, 1.8 is at 1.95 1.85 watt hour, which is what it says.

This is another 500 milliamp hour cell. This one is 75, 20, 35 uh, seven point: five millimeter thick yeah, roughly good enough. 35. Yes, okay! So if you kind of needed a cell and this system had your circuit, you had the protection.

This is a viable source. Is this aluminum? No, it's not! It can't be aluminum. I think it's just different plastic. No, that is aluminium, no way that is aluminium.

What an absolute waste. Let's go all eve here: let's go! Oh yeah, that's aluminium, very robust! This one also, then probably feels the same. Smock all right tell you what let's get this one open! It's worth mentioning that these things are clearly aimed at the the traditional users, because they're all really high potency. Is this going to come out easily waiting for one to explode, because these are all brand new and therefore they may be? The batteries are fully charged in them.

Oh, that's something! I could check the battery voltage, but i know pretty well that they will be fully charged. This is not going to easily not come out easily. Am i going to have a little inferno on my hands in a moment, taking things to bits, keep in mind that by the time it's been discarded, it will probably be fairly low capacity. Is it not coming out easily? I think this is another aluminum body unit with the plastic inserted well in is that trying to pull the battery back in again? Oh, it is oh right.

Okay is the whole lot going to come out the other end. Then. Let me pop the little sensor thing out classic little sense that you find in well many types. It's the little one, that's based on a pressure sensor that looks a bit like a microphone right.

Tell you what let's go, try and get this one out! The other end see what happens. Something going to happen is something going to give us is suddenly going to go, bang and burst into flames, don't think so, so that is the wick container right, so i'll try pushing it out from this end. What have we got? So it's using this aluminum again body not as thick as that, one that is chunky, that is a proper extrusion here uh this one's battery. It's got a little pad over here.

What is this one labeled, as is it labeled? Oh, it's kind of labeled, but unfortunately, sticky label is pulling off 500 milliamp hour again 1.85 watt hour uh. What have we got for numbering here? 80, 21, 38, 8, millimeters, 21., yeah close enough and about 30 to say about 30 yeah roughly they allow this size. The terminals as well so there we go um how wasteful, but i guess ultimately for that market, it's just what they have uh so next time you see one of these lying in the street. Just keep in mind, don't walk by.

It may have a useful lithium cell in it. Now i want to use one of these. I want to actually do something with one of them. So one thing that comes to mind is this little pattern for red light that i got a while back.

Uh where's a spudger and it's never worked, and the reason it's never worked is because the lithium cell that was supplied with it is dry. It's obviously had a sort of ceiling problem, but uh the circuit board inside. I already assessed this. Although it's got the protection board.

Oh yeah, i could use reuse the protection board, probably uh. It does have a charge, control chip there and then the passenger for red chips. So tell you what i'm going to implant one of these cells into this uh and see if i can reincarnate this thing, i'm just going to use that little existing circuit board there. It makes sense to do so.

Doesn't it right one moment please that repair has been done so here's what i did. I took one of the existing cells, the one that i salvaged from the one i picked up off the street and i used the existing power control board the little protection board, and i just tack those leads onto the pads on the board, making sure of the Crack polarity and the unit is now projecting light forth nicely, so that's fixed, there's enough stickiness left in the pad at the back to accommodate sticking the cell back in, and i won't click this in at the moment. I can see it is going to fit, but i won't click it in right now, because otherwise it can make large popping noises on the camera, but that is it now. There's a couple of things worth mentioning when you open these things, because they've been used, hygiene for a start, but also they will still contain the chemicals that are used for people to inhale the vapor, the fog.

So just be careful because all these things are aimed at the hardcore people and as such, this is a fairly potent version. It's got quite quite a high percentage of knicker tin in it, so just be, if you it might be wise to use gloves, also keep in mind that, although they're kind of well used the batteries will still have a charge in them, which is quite good. They don't really run them right down to zero, in fact, because they use the standard little chips uh they do that thing that when they get low it blinks the led the engine says you know, that's it finished it's time to recharge, although obviously you can't recharge It, though you could theoretically be these pins if you applied a current limited 4.2 volt supply, i'm guessing if it's the same chip or just go straight on to the lithium cell itself, but that is it it's nice that you know, while i'm not really approving of This i can understand the market it's aimed at uh and certainly they've evolved quite dramatically and they're actually quite useful, and it's just good that you know you can just pick up rechargeable lithium cells off the street um this little cell, incidentally, the one that was originally In that you can see where the seal has failed around one of the electrodes and that's where the electrolyte has just gradually escaped out. So this thing is dried out and is completely dead.

Squirting your electrolyte into it is not in the equation, but that is it. Um, rather than see these things go to waste. If you see them in the street, there is the option to pick them up and uh scavenge them for their juicy lithium cells.

18 thoughts on “Scavenging rechargeable lithium cells from the roadside”
  1. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars djneo92nl says:

    So happy I eat less meat and try to lower my carbon footprint, when people use disposable vapes with lithium cells in plastic / metal enclosures

    But the cells look nice to reuse tho. but have never seen them

  2. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars newscotland-tv says:

    correction: they are all aimed at kids and getting them addicted.
    6mg is more than an old 20 pack.
    maybe if westminster partied less then the legislation might exist to protect kids from this and the environment from the waste……trading standards are at the party

  3. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars FYEStech says:

    Why are the companies that make these "thingies" so wasteful that they put rechargeable lithium cells in them with no provisions for actually recharging the device? They even make the device slightly modular, but not rechargeable.

  4. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars dazzerda says:

    BenHeck nearly had a battery burst into flames scavenging batteries from cheap bluetooth audio stuff lol (he's all good) just shows to be careful not to short them out

  5. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Scott Marshall says:

    Good one. Too bad here in the US our government has decided we're not adults and can't decide what to put in our bodies, thus they don't sell these here. You can still buy the traditional ignitable version at the grocery store though.
    I'd be all in on recycling these nice little batteries if they were available. As a model flyer they would be great for a number of uses.
    I'm surprised some enterprising seller of such goods isn't offering a buy back of the used devices (maybe as a discount on the next one?) and selling them to recyclers. I think the aluminum construction is to help mitigate the possibility of fire or injury were something to go wrong. Cheap insurance against lawsuits and bad publicity.
    Thanks Clive, nice look at doing a bit to keep tjhe batteries out of the landfill, at least for a while longer.

  6. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars annoloki says:

    Haha, yep, I do that! They're also useful for head torches, to replace the 3 x AAA nightmare. You can connect them in parallel (making them self balancing, you can even mix different capacity cells this way) and put a protection circuit over the bunch. Using small cells lets you fit them into whatever space you have available. I then add a poundland powerbank USB charging circuit, with the big USB port unsoldered to make it flatter, and you have a USB rechargeable li-ion head torch 🙂

  7. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars 2000jago says:

    I'd be interested to know what you paid for those to determine whether or not it's worth buying one JUST to harvest the cells, or would I still be better off buying the cells directly?

  8. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Ronnie Rush says:

    How ironic lithium is also used for depression which is what a LOT of people are going to suffer from when they get their new rip-off energy bills. 🙁

  9. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars primate interface technologies says:

    as it happens I am at this very moment sucking on one of those that has been converted to refillable and rechargeable… also- they will drive one of those little "stun-gun" modules just fine, producing a little bitty pocket taser… that will definitely hurt, but probably not stop anyone who is motivated… and might just piss them off. obviously, a momentary button is added. imagine the spectacle of someone trying to put the taser in their mouth to activate it… one way or another it's not going to work out well.

  10. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Gregory Thomas says:

    "Knicker Teen" ??
    Considering the cost of lithium batteries and the value of the aluminum housing these are really great for recovering.
    My mom uses the pre-made kind (I make my own juice) and saves all the 'disposable' batteries for me to have fun with.
    I now have a collection of a couple hundred of them and just might do a project by creating a 12VDC battery to see exactly how well they last while starting a car 🙂

  11. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Hotminister says:

    If you go to big super stores like Sainsburys or Tescos, you will see a big recycling basket’ of different types of battles and you can get as much as you want!!!!

  12. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Robin Hugli says:

    seeing those batteries in disposable products hurts my brain and entire body. If there is a rechargeable battery somewhere there must be a charge port.

  13. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars markiangooley says:

    When Chinese laborers get too expensive for making something, the work is farmed out to Vietnam nowadays. Maybe somewhere else too?

  14. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars MarksGoneWicked says:

    I have a number of lithium cells I've collected from disposable vaping devices I've found. Haven't seen any in awhile, but I do keep an eye out for them. As a tip, I use a tubing cutter for the round ones I can't get apart, get as close to the tip as possible so you don't cut into the cell by mistake.

  15. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Niels Winters says:

    What a horrible, wasteful product… The smoking industry are still as horrid as they ever were.

    Good to see tinkerers can prolong its life.

  16. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars bren160 says:

    Did you mean that outer case is aloooominum?
    And my initial thought is that these are priced cheap and aimed at the teenage market to hook them into the habit, could be wrong but I am always prepared to believe the worst intentions from marketing.

  17. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Noel Goetowski says:

    How does the value of the alumininium compare to the price of the device itself? Might make for a very cost-effective, if labor-intensive, way of sourcing raw metal stock.

  18. Avataaar/Circle Created with python_avatars Daniel López says:

    These are perfect for the smal fairy lights i usually mod to have a rechargable lithium battery inside, instead of common AAA batteries, probably 2 or 3 could fit perfectly inside… what a waste…

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