In 1975 I (Bob; send questions here)
shared an office with a cigar smoker, who eventually died of lung
cancer. Second-hand smoke was not considered a problem in those
days. But I was working then under contract to the U.S. EPA,
studying the cancer-causing chemicals produced by incomplete
combustion, as in cigarettes, cigars, and in the oxygen-starved
combustion of coal and solid waste.
One day, as a part of my job, I visited a new kind of
solid-waste incinerator which Monsanto had designed and built for
the city of Baltimore. My task was to decide whether to bid on
doing an economic analysis of the incinerator's performance.
The special feature of the Monsanto incinerator was that it
was designed to burn the solid waste
incompletely, thereby producing fuel gases that could be
piped to, and used to heat, office buildings in downtown
At some point during my visit to the Monsanto plant I
realized that tobacco could probably also be heated
without combustion -- in other words, I realized that
electrically heated air could be used to evaporate the taste and
nicotine into an inhalable airstream without having to use the
tobacco itself as the energy source to evaporate the taste and
nicotine into an inhalable airstream.
I decided to build a noncombustion tobacco inhaler, market
it, and then retire. Instead, I learned about the frustrations,
challenges and wonders of hands-on research and development.
The first test model was made from laboratory glassware. It
used a 1,000-watt heating element from a toaster and survived
long enough to prove the idea, and then it melted down. Two
years later I had a 100-watt model, which was built from a light
bulb and a brake fluid can. My first patent, 4,141,369, was
based on that model, which was called the Health
The present Flash Evaporator and related projects grew from
that origin. Each of them uses about 10 watts of power. The
Tobacco Master models use about 40 to 50 watts and, in a sort of
irony, the smallest one is the size of a pack of cigarettes.