A bicycle inner tube under a breadboard can be sufficient to isolate building vibrations

In many cases equipment is set up on vibration dampened tables. In microscopy, these optical tables, in the shape of a giant metal floating breadboard are ubiquitous, and expensive. These optical tables cost several thousand dollars from the cheapest suppliers. However, if microscopes are not mechanically isolated, oscillations attenuate the quality of images.

There’s an old trick if you can’t afford an optical table. Set your equipment upon an optical breadboard placed on an inflated bicycle inner tube. This is precisely what is demonstrated in a 2019 paper which details the creation of an affordable single-molecule localization microscope written by Hong Mao, Robin Diekmann, Hai Po Liang, Victoria Cogger, David Le Couteur, Glen Lockwood, Nicholas Hunt, Mark Schüttpelz, Thomas Huser, Vivien Chen, and Peter McCourt .

In the paper, they show that an inner tube at a relative pressure of 0.5 bar placed between an aluminum breadboard and a table significantly reduced vibrations, as shown by the repeated localization of the center of bright, fluorescent beads of 100 nm diameter.