If you're looking into a waterpipe that goes beyond the simple straight-tube or beaker style, you are probably looking at water pipe percolators. Water pipe percolators, according to wikipedia, are an "additional sub chamber within the shaft of a water pipe that provides in-line smoke interaction via heat exchange and dissolution". These are the two key reasons why percolators are so valuable to the water pipe user.
Heat Exchange (Cooling)
To explain, the heat exchange mentioned above comes when the smoke touches that naturally cool water within the water pipe. Smoke is naturally pretty hot, and because of the denseness of the water, it cools extremely quickly.
Meanwhile, "dissolution" is essentially a fancy way of saying that it "breaks the smoke into smaller pieces", allowing water to filter and cool the surface area of that smoke.
A good way of looking at the cooling factors with dissolution might be with ice cubes in a drink. Consider a glass with two large ice cubes: the liquid inside will cool, albeit not very quickly. Crush that ice into many tiny pieces, however, and your liquid will cool much faster.The key idea in the example above is that by crushing the ice, you just increased its surface area. A good percolator, such as a honeycomb, or even the far more advanced fritted disc, increases the amount of smoke surface area (not by crushing it, but by splitting it up quite a bit), allowing more of it to come in contact with water.
A good percolator also helps to contain the smoke, making it cooler and more even.
Water: The Perfect Smoke Filter
Water is the perfect filter for smoke because much of the "bad components" of smoke are water-soluble. This means that they will typically be absorbed by the water in a pipe.
The "good components" of your smoke, on the other hand, are non-water soluble. So a percolator is an excellent way of getting rid of a lot of the bad of smoking (cough cough), while retaining all of the fun parts.
One of the minor downsides of percolators is that they can cause drag. This means that the smoke is not as free to move, and may require extra suction in order to continue moving through the smoking device.
So, as an example, a fritted disc, because it has far more holes than a honeycomb, may have more drag. A honeycomb, meanwhile, has more drag than a simple, perc-less pipe, as well.
It is important to note, however, that modern perc designs tend to offer some drag, but it does generally tend to be minor, and in some cases practically non-existent.
If you're interested in a water pipe or oil rig with solid percolation, well, you've come to the right place. Thickassglass.com has always been on the leading edge of percolation technologies, as seen in our collections which include:
Fritted discs: This type of perc bounds thousands of tiny glass fragments together leaving tiny holes in between each fragment. The amount of diffusion on a fritted disc, therefore, is pretty much unbeatable. The smoothness a fritted disc delivers is simply unparalleled.
Honeycomb: These diffusers are basically a disc with as many as 100 or more holes. Once bubbles are created in the water, the bubbles are forced through the Honeycomb, which then reduces the size of the bubbles, and increases the amount of interaction between smoke and water. These are a solid choice, and are extremely popular.
Showerhead: These percs feature slits or holes in order to increase diffusion and filtration. They offer lesser diffusion, but are still quite effective.
Tree: Tree percs offer a great level of diffusion, depending on the number of "arms" they feature. Each of the arms of a tree perc will usually have slits in the side and either a closed or an open bottom. The smaller the slits, the more the diffusion and filtration. The more arms, obviously, the more slits and the more total diffusion.
So is a percolator water pipe for you? Well, if you love the harshness of smoking and that burning feeling at the back of your throat after a huge hit, then, er, no.
On the other hand, if you love smooth, cool smoke every time you use your water pipe, then, yes. You're gonna love your percolator. So will your lungs!