Milling Grinding and Homogenization

Animal tissue is often blended in a high-speed blender until completely homogeneous. For trace element work, solid samples should not be ground in a mill constructed with materials containing the elements to be determined, such as iron, chromium and manganese. In this case, a mortar grinder (mortar and pestle mill) or ball mill would be suitable. The former may be constructed of agate, with the pestle and mortar being independently motor driven (Pascall Model 00, Agate), or may consist of a vibrating ball and mortar (Fritsch Pulverisette). The ball mill may be porcelain with fused magnesium silicate balls (Pascall Model No. 9). There are centrifugal, planetary and roller type ball mills. The physical characteristics of the sample material may determine which type is best for the purpose, and the manufacturer's advice should be sought. Some manufacturers are listed below:

Glen Creston Ltd:


Fritsch GmbH:



Pascall Engineering Co. Ltd: Retsch GmbH & Co. KG: The fineness of grind is important and can influence the result, especially when the sample is being subjected to partial dissolution in detergent or enzyme containing solutions. A mesh of the appropriate size can usually be inserted in the mill. Herbage is usually graded to 1 mm particle size. For available carbohydrates in cereal mixes, the sample should be ground to 0.5 mm.

In general, for small dry samples, a micro hammer-cutter mill will tackle anything from cotton to small rocks. For more than 100 g dry herbage, a larger cutter or knife mill will be more efficient. We use a Christy-Norris 20.3 cm (8 in) cutter mill with a 1.47 kW (2 hp) 415 V (three-phase) motor. A 12.7 cm cross beater hammer mill at approximately 13,000 rpm is also suitable. If the receiving container is a cotton bag, it should be turned inside out and shaken between samples. An 18 x 36 cm grill of 2.5 cm wire mesh set into the bench in front of the mill and connected to a suction fan (415 V, 2.5 A, 1400 rpm, 1.1 kW) via ducting through an outside wall, removes the dust at source. It is essential to clean the mill between samples to prevent cross-contamination, and a paint brush and vacuum nozzle are used. However, if milling samples weighing about 500 g, and the component to be measured only differs by a maximum of 0.5% between samples, then a residue of 5 g in the milling chamber will only affect results by 0.005%. If results are given to 0.1%, the tedious cleaning process might be considered unnecessary.

The lignified and cutinized tissues of cereal grains need the more vigorous disintegration of ball-milling to produce a homogeneous sample. Prolonged ball-milling, however, can depolymerize cellulose, therefore wet ball-milling in an organic solvent or suitable extractant is recommended (Southgate, 1995, p. 47).

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