Pulverization of Hair for the Detection of Drugs

The Mixer Mill MM 400 from RETSCH is a high-performance ball mill designed for grinding and homogenizing suspensions and powders within a few seconds, and achieving fineness down to the low micron range, thus making it a true versatile laboratory instrument. With two grinding stations, the MM 400 can concurrently prepare up to 20 samples. The equipment is suitable for reproducible dry grinding, for instance, preparing sample for subsequent XRF analysis. However, the mill is also used for loss-free wet grinding.

Mixer Mill MM 400

Figure 1. Mixer Mill MM 400

Moreover, the mill can pulverize temperature-sensitive products through cryogenic processing, wherein the grinding jar and the sample within it are externally cooled and then the sample is adequately embrittled to be pulverized to analytical fineness. The MM 400 is offered with wide choice of accessories, including grinding jars in different materials and sizes, and adapter racks that can be equipped with 5-10 reaction vials. These are utilized for the disruption of animal and plant tissues and cells. The MM 400 is utilized in a myriad of industries, from plastics and environment to mineralogy, biology and pharmaceutics, thanks to its great flexibility.

Performance Data of MM 400

The performance data of MM 400 is listed below:

Feed material soft, medium-hard, hard, brittle, elastic, fibrous
Feed size* <8 mm
Final fineness* <5 µm

*depending on sample material and instrument configuration

Detection of Illegal Drugs and Pharmaceuticals

Detecting illegal pharmaceuticals and drugs is critical in fields such as competitive sports, traffic or forensic science. It is possible to detect chemical substances in urine, saliva, hair and blood, of which hair stores the substances for a comparatively long period based on its length. Besides detecting drug abuse, hair samples are also useful in DNA analysis.

Need for Reproducible Sample Preparation

Alpha Biolaboratories based in Warrington, UK, is a key provider for illicit drugs, alcohol and DNA analysis. Since the lab predominantly performs analyses on hair, it was seeking an optimized process for sample preparation that can process more number of samples with higher degree of reproducibility. Ground hair has more contact area with the solvent than cut hair, thus demonstrating improved drug extraction recovery and time. In addition, the required quantity of cut hair for ensuring representativity is also much higher.

Solution from RETSCH

Alpha Biolabs realized that RETSCH’s mixer mill MM 400 holds potential to meet the requirements for repeatable and efficient sample preparation. Since utilizing the mill, the lab has improved both sample reproducibility and throughput. The equipment is utilized to concurrently prepare up to 20 hair samples in 2 ml plastic reaction vials, each containing two 6 mm balls.

Figure 2.

Figure 3.

Based on the fat content of the hair sample, liquid nitrogen may often be used as a grinding aid to prevent the material from caking or sticking to the walls of the grinding jar. The ideal solution is the RETSCH CryoMill equipped with integrated cooling system, which is highly efficient and especially safe to handle. Another option is external cooling of the sample, for instance with the RETSCH CryoKit, subsequent to the grinding of the sample in the MM 400.

The RETSCH CryoMil

Figure 4. The RETSCH CryoMill


RETSCH mixer mills are suitable instruments that rapidly prepare hair samples with better homogeneity and fineness, which, in turn, accelerate the extraction process and yield reliable and accurate analysis results.

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by RETSCH GmbH.

For more information on this source, please visit RETSCH GmbH.


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