Bullet Blender® Support

Overview

We’re proud to offer comprehensive support for the Bullet Blender.

  • Risk-free purchase. We offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • Lifetime technical support. We’re always happy to help you get the best results from your Bullet Blender. Just write or call.
  • Free custom protocol development. Wondering if the Bullet Blender is right for you? We’ll develop a protocol for your specific sample type.

General User Guides

Operators Manuals

Bullet Blender FAQs

Bullet Blender FAQs

Reference Manual with helpful suggestions and pictures

4°C Cooling™ in the Bullet Blender:

What is 4°C Cooling?

4°C cooling uses a compartment filled with dry ice to keep samples near 4°C. When the instrument is in operation, cold air from the compartment is drawn into the instrument, cooling the samples. Some users prefer to pre-cool their Bullet Blenders before use. To pre-cool, fill the compartment with dry ice and run the instrument with no tubes inside for 5 minutes or until the "4°C" light comes on.

Which models have 4°C Cooling?

The 4°C cooling feature comes on Gold models of the Bullet Blender®. The BB24-AU which homogenizes samples in 1.5 mL microcentrifuge tubes, the BB5E-AU which homogenizes samples in 5 mL tubes and BB50-AU which homogenizes samples in 50 mL tubes.

How does 4°C cooling work so well?

The dry ice cooling system in the Bullet Blender Gold models is fully integrated with the instrument. (Most or all other homogenizers with cooling, have separate cooling modules or use cooling packs.) The Bullet Blender Gold models use temperature sensors and also monitor the homogenization conditions, so they can compensate for these factors and provide the precise amount of cooling to keep samples at or very near 4C, within a degree or two. Also, the operating principal of the Bullet Blender is different than other bead mill homogenizers, so samples are not subjected to as much heat, and therefore, do not need to be cooled as much.

How much dry ice do I need to use 4°C Cooling?

It takes at least 2 lbs of dry ice for the instrument to achieve maximum cooling. We recommend filling the chamber with 3 lbs of dry ice- depending on how heavily the instrument is used, this should keep samples at 4°C for an entire day of homogenization.

Can I use regular ice with 4°C Cooling?

You can use some regular ice from a -80 Freezer, however, it will not be as effective or last as long as dry ice. Secondly, the melt water will block the flow of air for cooling the samples. The meltwater, if spilled, could damage the Bullet Blender and void any warranty. Drawing moist air into the unit may also cause damage to the electronics over time.

Why is the 4°C light not lighting up on my Bullet Blender Gold unit?

Frost from condensation may be blocking the air passage. Remove the inner dry ice compartment and gently agitate it or replace the ice. If your dry ice has been stored for a long time, it may also contain some water ice from condensed humidity in the air and will be less effective in cooling the unit.

What will happen if I operate my Bullet Blender Gold unit with no dry ice?

When there is no dry ice in the compartment, you should operate the instrument with the lid of the dry ice compartment open so that the instrument can operate using Air Cooling™.

Air Cooling™:

What is Air Cooling?

Most models have Air Cooling. These models exchange air with their surroundings; they do not have refrigeration units. Air Cooling draws cool air into the instrument if you are using the Bullet Blender in a cold room or a refrigerated cabinet keeping samples below room temperature. Air Cooling is also useful if you’re running several sample cycles in a row or if your samples are extra sensitive to heating up. Normally, the samples in the Bullet Blender only heat up a few degrees and stay quite cool. However, if you’re running a second batch of samples soon afterward, they will heat up a little more because the Bullet Blender is starting out slightly warmer. The Air Cooling keeps the Bullet Blender cooler so that the first batch of samples heat up a little less and subsequent batches are kept just about as cool as the first batch.

Which models have Air Cooling?

The Air Cooling feature comes on all models of the Bullet Blender except the standard Bullet Blender for microcentrifuge tubes (BBX24). Gold models not running with dry ice can be run in Air Cooling mode if the dry ice compartment lid is left open to enable air exchange.

Use and Operation:

How is the Bullet Blender different from other high-throughput homogenizers on the market?

The Bullet Blender is similar to other bead mill style homogenizers in that it processes each sample in its own tube using homogenization beads. Therefore, there is no chance of cross-contamination and there are no parts that need cleaning after each sample.

A unique feature of the Bullet Blender is the way it agitates the sample tubes. Other bead-mill homogenizers vigorously shake the sample tubes, which requires a great deal of energy. The large motors required tend to make these homogenizers large and expensive: many are 2-3 times the cost of the Bullet Blender.

The Bullet Blender, on the other hand, uses a patented striking technology. Strikers impact the sample tubes. These bursts of energy force the sample tubes to oscillate vigorously in 3 dimensions, at a range of frequencies, up to several thousand cycles per minute. We find that a range of frequencies is more effective than a single frequency. This energy-efficient approach requires a much smaller motor and avoids the need to clamp tubes into a holder, so loading the sample tubes in the Bullet Blender is much easier and quicker. The Bullet Blender is smaller, lighter, and less expensive than competitors’ equipment while working just as well.

Also unique to the Bullet Blender, the sample tubes rapidly oscillate in a stream of rapidly flowing air. They are not clamped into a holder, preventing air exchange. Therefore, convective cooling is very effective and sample heating is minimal, especially in models with Air Cooling or 4°C Cooling. The Bullet Blender can also be used in a cold room, unlike many of the other instruments on the market.

What types of tubes can be used?

Microcentrifuge models: The Bullet Blender Storm and Gold models work with our RINO® tubes or 1.5 mL Eppendorf® Safe-Lock tubes (not the LoBind version though). The standard Bullet Blender and Bullet Blender Blue work with 1.5 mL or 2.0 mL Eppendorf Safe-Lock tubes. When using 2 mL tubes in the the Bullet Blender or the Bullet Blender Blue we recommend using a minimum of 2 tubes per homogenization cycle. The obsolete screw cap models (BBX24W and BBX24BW) use Axygen® 1.5 mL screw-cap tubes.

5 mL tube models: The Bullet Blender Storm 5 units work with 5 mL Axygen brand screw top transport tubes. We also offer the Bullet Blender 5 E that works with Eppendorf 5 mL snap-cap conical tubes. As these are different in size than the Axygen tubes, these 5mL models can handle one type of tube or the other, but not both in the same instrument.

50 mL tube models: The Bullet Blender 50-DX and 50-AU (DX and Gold models) work with 50 mL skirted (self-standing) polypropylene tubes, such as TPP® brand or Corning® brand. Generally high quality tubes work better (rather than bargain brand tubes which are not as strong).

How do you set the Bullet Blender to mix, disrupt, or homogenize different types of samples?

You can adjust the speed and the duration of a cycle. Adjusting the speed affects the momentum applied by the strikers to the sample tubes, and thus the force applied to the sample by the beads. The "speed" setting is a relative measure of homogenization power. A direct measure of speed (such as RPM or mps) would be misleading because the sample tubes oscillate at a range of frequencies. Adjusting the duration affects the total number of impacts. Homogenizing tough tissue requires longer durations at full speed, while mixing or cell dissociation requires lower speeds and duration.

How easy is it to operate the Bullet Blender?

Simply place up to 24 sample tubes in the holders, set the desired duration and speed, and push start. All the samples will be processed simultaneously, without any chance of cross contamination.

How much sample can be homogenized in each microcentrifuge tube?

General tip: Tubes should be filled no more than 75% full (50% for 50 mL tubes). The air volume inside the tube is critical to allow the sample to be ground up inside the tube, so if the tube is overfilled the efficiency of the homogenization is reduced.

For microcentrifuge model Bullet Blenders, we recommend using 10-300 µL of sample. Less than 10 µL will work, but it requires careful attention to the amount of beads and volume of homogenization buffer. The 5 mL tubes can hold up to about 1 mL of sample. The 50 mL tubes can hold up to about 3.5 mL of sample. Note that for most wet organ tissue an easy approximation of volume is 1 mL≈1 g.

Do sample tubes need to be placed symmetrically?

No. There are no restrictions as to which holes to place your sample tubes in, however you may get better results if you space them apart as evenly as possible.

How do you retrieve the sample from the tubes?

After the Bullet Blender stops, simply remove the tubes and draw off the liquid with a pipet. If a clear lysate is desired, the sample may be centrifuged to clarify the lysate prior to use in your applications. Tubes may be centrifuged with the beads in them for ease of handling.

Which beads should I use?

The protocols page contains suggested beads, speeds, and durations for processing many types of tissues and cells. The two basic rules for bead selection: (1) use denser beads for tougher samples, and (2) use beads of a comparable size to the size of your samples to maximize the effectiveness of collisions between beads and samples. For example, if you wanted to lyse mammalian cells with a soft membrane, use small beads. If you want to homogenize larger pieces of tough tissue, use large steel beads. "”UFO" beads are excellent for homogenizing fibrous or resilient samples. You can also contact our technical support staff at techsupport@nextadvance.com if you have any questions.

I am trying to process tough samples in the Bullet Blender and the homogenization is incomplete. How can I improve my results?

  • Examine the shape of your samples – long thin samples will homogenize faster than cube-shaped or round samples.
  • Try cutting your samples into smaller pieces.
  • Ensure your tubes are not overloaded.
  • If you are running many samples at once in the standard or Blue models of the Bullet Blender (BBX24 or BBX24B), try running fewer tubes at a time. If a sample is extremely tough (e.g. mouse femur) you may only be able to achieve complete homogenization with 2-4 tubes at a time.
  • If you are using the BB50-DX or BB50-AU, make sure that all of the sleeves are removed except for the sleeves containing tubes.

I previously owned another bead mill homogenizer. Can I use the same protocols that we developed for the other homogenizer with the Bullet Blender?
 

Yes, if your previous homogenizer was a Bullet Blender. Each speed setting provides relative homogenization performance across all models.

No, if your previous homogenizer was not a Bullet Blender. The mechanism of action is different from all other homogenizers on the market. Our patented striking technology makes the Bullet Blender both highly efficient and effective. If you use another product’s protocol with the Bullet Blender, you are very likely to experience different results. Please use one of our established protocols, or empirically determine a protocol that works best for your samples. We also offer free protocol development services.

Is it possible to homogenize tissue that has been frozen in liquid nitrogen?

It is possible to homogenize tissue that was frozen in liquid nitrogen. Immerse the frozen tissue in cold buffer and allow it to thaw, then treat it as you would any other sample. If the tissue was dried before it was frozen, you can pulverize the tissue by homogenizing with beads only (no buffer), then adding the cold buffer and running again to complete the homogenization. You cannot homogenize "wet" tissue while it is still frozen, as it will effectively be a block of ice and homogenization efficiency will be very poor.

What is the “Key-Switch Lock Out” option for Bullet Blenders?

This key switch option incapacitates the electronics, preventing others from operating your Bullet Blender. Thereby, others are discouraged from working in your area, using your supplies, and upsetting your experiments.

Contact us if you have any more questions.

Bead Calculator

Beads Calculator

What should I expect when I order bulk beads?

Enter your bead material and diameter to find out some interesting information.

Composition:
Diameter:

0.5 mm Zirconium Silicate beads

Part Number:
Actual Density (g/mL):
*Observed Density (g/mL):
Volume of 1 lb. (mL):
Number of Beads in 1 lb:
100mg samples homogenized / lb.:

Zirconium silicate beads can be used for the homogenization of medium-soft samples.

Convert ZSB05 weight or volume

Enter Volume (uL):orEnter Mass (mg):

* Since there is space between each bead, the observed dry density is less than the actual density of the material. In our protocols, the volume of beads recommended is based on the observed density.

Beads FAQs

Bullet Blender Beads FAQs

Reference Manual (with helpful suggestions and pictures)

Bead Lysis Kits

What are Bead Lysis Kits?

Next Advance Bead Lysis Kits are microcentrifuge tubes pre-filled with bead combinations optimized to homogenize your specific tissue sample. We also make custom kits for 1.5 mL, 5 mL and 50 mL tubes; contact us at customersupport@nextadvance.com to learn more.

What are the advantages of Bead Lysis Kits over bulkR beads?

The beads are pre-dispensed in known volumes, which reduces inter-sample variability. Experimental setup is also faster: Just add your sample and buffer, and you’re ready to homogenize. The kits also contain a mixture of different beads which can provide better results.

What’s the difference between the Eppendorf kits and the RINO kits?

Both types contain the same beads, so an Eppendorf kit and a RINO® kit will work for the same sample types and buffer volumes. The RINO tubes offer superior leak resistance, especially with slippery solvents like TRIzol. Eppendorf kits offer the convenience of snap caps.

Can I use my desired sample buffer in a Bead Lysis Kit?

Yes. The kits are compatible with almost all biological buffers. Choose the kit which is appropriate for the volume of sample buffer you wish to use. Pink and Green kits are appropriate for volumes up to 200 μL; Red, Navy and Yellow kits can be used for volumes between 200 and 500 μL.

What’s the advantage of RNase-free Bead Lysis Kits?

Less handling means less risk of RNase contamination. The beads in our RNase-free Bead Lysis Kits are protected until the tube is opened, so the risk of accidental introduction of RNase is greatly reduced. The faster setup also gives your RNA less time to degrade.

Which Bead Lysis Kit should I choose?

The best choice of kit will depend on your sample type and size, and your desired buffer volume. Use the selection guide to identify the kit that is most suitable for your experiments.

Do you offer custom kits?

Yes, we do! If you have a specific bead mixture that you prefer, we can create kits made to your exact specifications at a very reasonable price. Custom kits can be made up in 1.5 mL Eppendorf tubes, RINO tubes, 5 mL Eppendorf tubes, or other tube types that might be required by your bead mill homogenizer. Send your kit specifications to customersupport@nextadvance.com, and we’ll be happy to get you a quote.

Bulk Beads

Can I wash and reuse the beads?

Yes you can! However, due to the relatively low cost, most Bullet Blender® users choose to simply dispose of the beads after use. Washing (and subsequent rinsing) is a laborious process and if done improperly can lead to cross contamination of your samples.

How do I wash the beads?

Washing in standard laboratory detergent (like Alconox®), followed by rinsing with distilled or deionized water is sufficient. Washing in a sonicating water bath can increase the penetrating ability of the detergent water and multiple rinses are recommended to ensure that all detergent is removed before drying. Acid washing of the beads is not recommended.

Will the beads stick together when I wash them?

After washing, the beads may stick together upon drying. Gently shake the container with the dried beads until they flow freely.

How many times can I reuse the beads?

You may wash and reuse the beads many times. How many uses you can get out of a batch of beads will depend on sample hardness and the speed at which you run the Bullet Blender. Typically, you can reuse the beads about ten times. Stop reusing the beads when cracks appear or there is noticeable wear, including discoloration.

Are the beads RNase free?

Not unless specified. All of our RNase free beads have a part number that ends in "–RNA" and bear a yellow or gold sticker indicating they are certified. If you would like a Certificate of Analysis, these are available upon request — please have your lot number available.

Can I use bulk beads for RNA extraction and analysis?

There are differing observations regarding this. Some insist that using a stabilization reagent during homogenization is sufficient to protect your RNA from degradation. Others report a shift in the 18S and 28S peak when bulk beads are used. Next Advance has observed researcher data with low RIN values when non-certified, bulk beads were used to homogenize samples. For this reason we recommend that certified RNase free materials be used when the homogenization goal is to extract RNA.

I bought bulk materials. Can I make my beads RNase free?

You can treat non-RNase free beads with a reagent like RNAZap® or RNaseAWAY®, followed by rinsing with nuclease free/DEPC treated water. Allow the beads to air dry in an oven or at ambient temperature. Testing should be performed to determine the degree (or lack thereof) of nuclease activity after treatment. Alternatively, baking the beads at high temperature (450°F / 232°C) for two hours or more has been shown to inactivate RNases.

How do I sterilize the beads?

They can be autoclaved on dry cycle to sterilize them. They may stick, so shake the container with the dried beads until they flow freely. Alternatively, they may be gamma irradiated. Any manipulations of the beads after sterilizing must use aseptic techniques in order to preserve the beads’ sterility.

Which beads are good for homogenizing which samples?

The two basic rules are: (1) a combination of large and small bead sizes works best in most situations, and (2) use denser beads for tougher samples. We have protocols with suggested beads for many samples. If you are unsure, please contact us and we’ll be happy to help.

How do I separate beads from the homogenized sample?

There are several methods to achieve this:

  • Use a pipette tip of sufficiently small size to allow whole homogenate to enter, but excludes the beads. The tip will filter the beads. Most 300uL tips are of sufficient size to exclude beads with a 0.5mm diameter and up.
  • Use the Mag(net)ic wand to remove stainless steel beads. See the movie.
  • Spin your tubes in a centrifuge for a few minutes. The beads will pool at the bottom of the tube along with the insoluble material. Remove the supernatant with a pipette and dispense in a fresh tube.

Are your beads compatible with my buffer?

In general the beads are very stable and non-reactive with most common laboratory reagents. There are several known reactions to be aware of:

  • Stainless Steel and TRIzol®: If stainless steel beads sit in TRIzol for a long time, the buffer will turn black. This reaction is not reported to have any negative effects on the quality or purity of RNA. Working quickly or removing beads after homogenization will minimize this reaction.
  • Stainless Steel and 6N HCl: If stainless steel beads sit in 6N HCl overnight the solution becomes blue. This may effect absorbance readings in certain assays and probably should be avoided if possible.

Protocols

Protocols for the Bullet Blender

Our experienced staff of molecular biologists have worked to provide you with a set of optimized protocols for the homogenization of various tissue, cell types, and organisms so you can spend less time troubleshooting and more time getting results.

All of our currently available protocols are listed below. Please read the General Guidelines before using the Bullet Blender® in any application.

For helpful suggestions, download our User Guide. It contains instructions on using the Bullet Blender, preparing samples including procedures for special cases, bead selection, and special considerations.

If you need help developing an assay with the Bullet Blender, feel free to e-mail our tech support at support@NextAdvance.com and we’ll do our best to assist you.

If you have developed a protocol with the Bullet Blender that is not listed on this page, or you have developed a protocol that works better for certain applications, please share it with everyone! E-mail it to us at support@NextAdvance.com or send it using our support form and we’ll review it and add it to our list of protocols. Don’t worry – we’ll acknowledge you for it! Thanks!

PLEASE NOTE: The protocols used with the Bullet Blender are different than protocols used with other bead-mill homogenizers. If you previously used another product, please be sure not to use its protocols with the Bullet Blender, as you will very likely experience different results.

Does the protocol use a different kind of bead than the type you currently have? Click here for pricing and ordering.

Bullet Blender Protocols

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Browse all protocols

Publications

Publications Citing the Bullet Blender

We’re proud to say that the Bullet Blender has been cited in more than 800 publications! Researchers all over the world have used the Bullet Blender® for extracting molecules, isolating live cells, and even generating nanoparticles.

Use the tables below to find publications for specific samples or applications.


Results

Click to See Results

 

Bullet Blender homogenizer and disrupter for tissue and cell culturesBullet Blender for cell lysis tissue disruptionUsing the Bullet Blender homogernizer to create single cell suspensionsIsolating bacterial with the Bullet BlenderChecmial analysis and drug testing using the Bullet Blender

Troubleshooting

Bullet Blender Troubleshooting

The Bullet Blender® is a very durable piece of equipment. It is unlikely you will ever need to troubleshoot your instrument. If you do find yourself in need of assistance, please feel free to contact us at customersupport@nextadvance.com or follow these troubleshooting steps below:

Reference Manual with helpful suggestions and pictures

If the has Bullet Blender stopped prematurely and will not restart…

The Bullet Blender contains a thermal fuse which prevents the device from overheating. Wait a little while, and when it cools off, you will be able to restart it.

If the Bullet Blender will not start…

Make sure the unit is plugged in. Check your electrical connection.

If a Bullet Blender Gold has power, and, the fan runs, but samples won’t homogenize…

If you can hear the fan start, but not the motor, the lid safety interlock might not be engaged. The small white arrow on the lid should be pointing directly toward the green “locked” symbol (see photo).

Correctly aligned Bullet Blender Gold lid

If you require assistance in diagnosing the problem, please call us at 1-800-738-1641, or write us at customersupport@nextadvance.com. We’re always happy to help.

If the lids of the tubes open or leak during operation of the Bullet Blender…

Make sure the tops of your tubes are securely fastened. Try to ensure that the interface regions or screw threads between the lids and the caps are dry when you close the caps or screw them on, so that there is enough friction for the caps to remain tightly sealed. For best results with the Bullet Blender, we recommend using the specific tubes based on the model you have. Please see the Bullet Blender FAQ to identify the best tube for your instrument.

If the centrifuge tubes broke…

Use only high-quality polypropylene centrifuge tubes. Even high quality tubes may become brittle when exposed to extremely low temperatures. Use caution when using liquid-nitrogen supercooled samples to ensure that you are not supercooling your microcentrifuge tubes as well.

If samples aren’t fully homogenizing…

The first and easiest solution to any difficulties in homogenization is to rerun the samples at a higher speed (if not already at the maximum speed) or for a second cycle of half the original time. In general, if you have further problems homogenizing a sample, the issue is usually the bead:buffer:sample ratio. Most samples will be fully homogenized at a sample:bead volumetric ratio of 1:1 though you can have more beads than sample if you wish. Also make sure that you are using a 1:2, bead:buffer volumetric ratio. An excess of buffer may minimize bead-sample collisions and effect homogenization efficiency. You can also try using denser beads, or changing the bead size. Harder tissue will often require denser, larger beads.

If the samples float in the buffer, and do not homogenize…

Push your samples as far down in the microcentrifuge tubes as possible with a pipette, forceps, or a similar tool. Place your beads evenly on top of the sample to prevent it from floating when you add your buffer. The beads should be of sufficient mass and density to weigh your sample down. If not, try increasing the amount of beads or decreasing the amount of sample until the beads successfully weigh down the sample.

If the tissue is fibrous, and does not homogenize well…

Fibrous tissue will always be difficult to homogenize. Increase the time and the speed of the homogenization, and if you still have difficulty homogenizing the tissue, try using denser beads, using more beads, or adding less sample per tube. The “UFO” beads have proven effective on fibrous tissue. Use the SSUFO35 beads in microcentrifuge tubes or SSUFO56 for 5 mL and 50 mL tubes.

If you are using a kit, and the kit calls for a different amount of buffer than the Bullet Blender homogenization protocol…

There are three typical options you can choose from to comply with both requirements:

  • Use the buffer volume recommended for use with the Bullet Blender (2 volumes of buffer for every 1 volume of sample) then add the rest of the buffer afterward.
  • Use the volume of buffer recommended in the kit and adjust the volume of beads accordingly (2 volumes of buffer for every 1 volume of beads).
  • A combination of the two options above. For example a protocol may require a sample:buffer volume ratio of 1:10. If your sample is 100mg and you are using a microcentrifuge tube, then it is not possible to fit all of the required material in the tube (100µL of sample, 1 mL of buffer and 500µL of beads). Instead, homogenize your sample in 400µL of buffer with 200µL of beads. After this is complete, add the additional 600µL of buffer to the tube (tube now contains 100µL of sample, 1 mL of buffer and 200µL of beads – it fits!). Shake and allow to stand for a few minutes before continuing with extraction.

If your sample is smaller than the minimum sample size (10mg / 10µL for the Bullet Blender standard, 50 mg / 50 µL for the Bullet Blender 5, 0.1 g / 0.1 mL for the Bullet Blender 50)…

Depending on the requirements of your downstream application, you may still be able to use the Bullet Blender with samples smaller than the minimum recommended size. Use your desired buffer volume with 1/2 that volume of beads. Never use less than 25 µL of beads and 50 µL of buffer in the Bullet Blender standard, 100 µL of beads and 200 µL of buffer in the Bullet Blender 5, or 250 µL of beads and 500 µL of buffer in the Bullet Blender 50 regardless of how small your sample may be.

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