The way from the cacao tree to the chocolate bar is a long one. Due to the many processing stages – harvest, fermentation, drying, cleaning, roasting, pre-crushing and finally grinding the cocoa nibs to liquor from which cocoa powder and cocoa butter are pressed – there may be significant differences in the quality.
A solid sample material should always be sufficiently prepared by size
reduction and homogenization before it is subjected to chemical or physical analysis. Care should be taken that the analysis sample fully represents the original material and that the sample preparation process is carried out reproducibly. Only then are meaningful results guaranteed. Most sample materials can be reduced to the required analytical fineness at room temperature by choosing a mill with a suitable size reduction principle (impact, pressure, friction, shearing, cutting).
Reliable and accurate analysis results can only be guaranteed by reproducible sample preparation. This consists of transforming a laboratory sample into a representative part sample with homogeneous analytical fineness. Retsch offers a comprehensive range of the most modern mills and crushers for coarse, fine and ultra-fine size reduction of almost any material. The product range also comprises a wide choice of grinding tools and accessories which helps to ensure contamination-free preparation of a great variety of sample materials. The selection of the correct grinding tool depends on the sample material and the subsequent method of analysis. Different grinding tools have different characteristics, such as required energy input, hardness or wear-resistance.
In the analysis of solid material, the popular adage that “bigger is better” certainly does not apply. The goal is to produce particles that are sufficiently small to satisfy the requirements of the analysis while ensuring that the final sample accurately represents the original material. The “particles” of interest to the analyst generally range from 10 µm to 2mm. Additionally there are many application, where even finer sizes are needed. One example are active ingredients, where it is necessary to grind in the submicron range. Finally for DNA or RNA extraction mechanical cell lysis is well-established.
Materials differ widely in their composition and physical properties. Hence, there are many different grinding principles that can be applied, and this, together with other variables such as initial feed or “lump” size, fineness needed and amount of sample available, results in a wide range of models available to the researcher.
A variety of methods can be used to analyze solid materials. What they all have in common is the necessity to use a representative, homogeneous analysis sample which needs to have a particular fineness, depending on the analytical method used. The size reduction and homogenization of solids is usually carried out with laboratory crushers and grinders.
A faultless and comparable analysis is closely linked to an accurate sample handling. Only a sample representative of the initial material can provide meaningful analysis results. Rotating dividers and rotary tube dividers are an important means to ensure the representativeness of a sample and thus the reproducibility of the analysis. Correct sample handling consequently minimizes the probability of a production stop due to incorrect analysis results. Thus correct sample handling is the key to effective quality control.
The way from the cacao tree to the chocolate bar is a long one. Due to the many processing stages – harvest, fermentation, drying, cleaning, roasting, pre-crushing and finally grinding the cocoa nibs to liquor from which cocoa powder and cocoa butter are pressed – there may be significant variations in the quality. The quality control process not only includes testing the innocuousness of the product (e. g. fungi, heavy metal contamination) or the ingredients (fat, carbohydrate content), it also involves size reduction to an adequate particle size for a sensory test of the cocoa liquor. That is important because the human palate perceives particles as small as 30 microns as unpleasant.
Mechanochemistry is a very effective method to carry out syntheses without solvents and by-products. The technical literature describes a great number of reactions where a conversion of 100% is achieved. A precondition for the establishment of mechanochemistry in the industrial sector is the availability of suitable laboratory mills. A decisive factor is that – similar to conventional preparative chemistry – ambient parameters such as pressure and temperature can be documented and monitored. The Planetary Ball Mills and Mixer Mills from Retsch fulfill these requirements.