One Hundred Years of Vibration Isolation

We recently completed a comprehensive series of renovations for the Mid-Campus Complex at the University of Pittsburgh. In my research into the history of the Mid-Campus Complex, I came across one of the original press releases for the opening of Allen Hall, one of the five buildings we worked on as part of our project. Back then it was known as The Mellon Institute of Industrial Research, founded as a “workshop of the world” and intended to promote “intellectual culture” and “industrial success” at the University and beyond. The press release appeared in the January 1915 issue of The Journal of Industrial and Engineering Chemistry.

I was fascinated to discover how closely the original mission of the Institute aligned with the goals of our project and the detailed description of the building’s construction provided valuable insight into the construction methods of the time. Of particular interest was a raised concrete platform in the “Special Apparatus Room” on the first floor, specifically installed for “instruments of precision.”

Among the new high performance laboratories we designed as part of our project is a Scanning Probe Microscopy suite under the direction of Condensed Matter physicist, Dr. Jeremy Levy. Our design team went to great lengths to provide Dr. Levy with low vibration space to meet the nano-scale resolution requirements of his “instruments of precision.”

One of the many vibration isolation measures we designed was a vibration isolation platform, utilizing a raised concrete plinth set on pneumatic isolation springs. The mass of the platform helps to dampen low frequency vibrations and the isolation springs act as finely tuned shock absorbers that counteract any movement within the platform.

One hundred years later and we are still striving to perfect the art of vibration isolation!

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