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How Do Oscillators Work

Understanding How Oscillators Work

Oscillators are electronic or mechanical devices manufactured and supplied by EuroQuartz that produce oscillating signals of constant amplitude often in form of sine or square waves. They convert direct current to alternating current. Oscillators have been used widely in numerous electronic equipment such as radios and video games, and most profoundly in clocks. Quartz watches, for instance, employ quartz oscillators to tell time accurately and consistently. But how do these oscillators work?

Oscillators Explained

A good way to understand how these devices work is to look at the most basic form of oscillators – a pendulum clock. Traditional pendulum clocks relied on the ability of the pendulum to swing back and forth a specific number of times every second at a fixed frequency. For the pendulum to oscillate, there is a need for conversion of energy from one state to another. As the pendulum swings, energy changes from potential energy to kinetic and back to potential. This goes on repeatedly causing oscillations.

However, as pendulum oscillates it is bound to stop due to friction. Traditional clocks remedied the effects of friction by introducing a spring. The tension on the spring provided a little nudge on the strokes of the pendulum to compensate the energy lost to friction. Electronic oscillators use the same principle except that energy loses are handled differently.

Clock Oscillator

As mentioned earlier, energy needs to move from one form to another for oscillations to occur. For a clock oscillator, we can consider a simple makeshift oscillator consisting of an inductor and a capacitor. Both the capacitor and inductor store energy but in different forms.

A capacitor stores electrostatic energy while the inductor stores magnetic energy. So, let’s charge the capacitor and make a small circuit consisting of these to devices. When the circuit is complete, the capacitor begins to lose its energy to the inductor, which in turn creates a magnetic field.

That happens until the capacitor discharges completely. In response, the inductor attempts to balance the charge in the circuit by releasing some energy back to the capacitor. The magnetic field around the inductor levels as the capacitor is recharged albeit with a different polarity. This goes on back and forth and as a result oscillations of equal amplitude occur.

Just like the pendulum would swing and stop due to friction, energy in this system is lost due to the resistance in the wires. This is usually corrected by regulating the size of the inductor and capacitor. That basically increases the amount of charge that they can carry.

Quartz Crystal Oscillator

To understand how a quartz crystal oscillator from EuroQuartz works, consider our makeshift oscillator discussed earlier. Replace the capacitors and inductors in the circuit with a quartz crystal and batteries. A quartz crystal demonstrates the same energy flow similar to that of the capacitor-inductor circuit, thanks to its unique electrochemical characteristics. When charged, the quartz crystal vibrates at a constant frequency, which can be used to power the gears in a clock.

In very basic form, this demonstrates how quartz crystal oscillators and quartz watches work.

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