What is an oscillator?

An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit, which produces a periodic, oscillating electronic signal (often a square wave, a sine wave, or a triangle wave). Oscillators can convert direct current to an alternating current signal from a power supply.

Oscillators are considered fundamental components with their various applications in any electrical and electronic circuits.

What is an oscillator made of?

Most oscillators are made of three essential parts:

  • Waveshaping network: This comprises passive components like filter circuits, which are responsible for the shape and frequency of the wave produced.

  • An amplifier: usually a voltage amplifier, which can be biased between class A, B or C.

  • A POSITIVE feedback path: This means that a part of the output signal will be fed back to the amplifier input. The feedback signal is regenerated, re-amplified, and fed back again to maintain a constant output signal.

Usually, an oscillator is made from an amplifier. A part of its output signal is fed back to its input. This is to keep the amplifier producing a signal without the need for any external signal input. It can also be considered a way of converting a DC supply into an AC signal.

What are different types of oscillators?

We can categorize oscillators by the type of signal they produce:

  • Sine wave oscillators: they produce sine wave output. This type of oscillators can also be categorized by frequency or the type of frequency control they use. RF (radio frequency) oscillators work at frequencies above about 30 to 50kHz, which use crystals or LC (inductors and capacitors) to control their frequency. Other classifications include HF, VHF, and UHF oscillators, depending on their frequency. LF (low frequency) oscillators are used for creating frequencies below about 30kHz, which are usually RC oscillators which use resistors and capacitors to control their frequency.

  • Relaxation oscillators

  • Sweep oscillators that make sawtooth waves

  • Square wave oscillators, including relaxation and astable oscillators, can be used differently from less than 1Hz up to several GHz. Square wave oscillators are often implemented in integrated circuit forms.

There are more than 20 types of oscillators that are used widely in various electronic devices. Examples of these include Colpitts Oscillator, Clapp Oscillators, Crystal Oscillators, RC Phase Shift Oscillator, Armstrong Oscillator, Tuned Collector Oscillator, Gunn Oscillator, Cross-Coupled Oscillators, Voltage Controlled Oscillator, and so on.

How does an oscillator work?

Oscillators can convert a direct current (DC) to an alternating current (AC) signal from a power supply. Electronic devices use oscillators widely, ranging from simplest clock generators to digital instruments (like calculators) and complex computers and peripherals, etc. The most practical examples of signals generated by oscillators could be broadcast signals in television transmitters or radio, clock signals that regulate computers and quartz clocks, and the sounds produced by electronic beepers and in video games.

What are the applications of oscillators?

Oscillators are cheap and easy components to create a specifically required frequency of a signal. RC oscillators, for example, are used to produce Low-Frequency signals while LC oscillators are used for High-Frequency signals. An Op-Amp-based oscillator, on the other hand, creates a more stable frequency.

To vary the oscillation's frequency, we can change the components value with potentiometer arrangements.

The most common practical applications that use oscillators are the following:

  • Integrated into quartz watches that use crystal oscillators

  • Audio systems and video systems

  • Clock pulses for microprocessors and micro-controllers

  • Alarms and buzzes

  • Metal detectors, stun guns, inverters, and ultrasonics

  • Operating decorative lights (e.g., dancing lights)

  • Radio, TV, and other communication devices

  • Other applications can be found in computers and radiofrequency applications.

Who manufactures oscillators?

Some giant manufacturers are the leading producers of oscillators, including Abracon, Murata, NXP, Epson, or Microsemi etc. 

Where to buy oscillators?

Apart from the original manufacturers of oscillators, many purchasing experts choose to buy oscillators from various electronic components distributors for cost-benefit reasons and prompt service. BD Electronics Ltd. is one of the most trusted European distributors of electronic components which can provide customers with all types of oscillators as well as other electronic parts at a reasonable price and in a time efficient manner.

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