An oscillator is an electronic circuit that generates a periodic signal. This signal is used by a microcontroller to determine its clock speed.
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The 3 most popular Oscillators

What is a crystal oscillator?

A crystal oscillator is an electronic oscillator circuit that uses the mechanical resonance of a vibrating crystal of piezoelectric material, such as quartz, to create an electrical signal with a very precise frequency. The crystal used in a crystal oscillator is typically cut in the shape of a thin disk or a thin rod, and is designed to vibrate at a specific frequency when a small electrical current is applied to it.

Some crystal oscillator has a frequency range between a few KHz to a few hundred MHz, and they can be used in many different types of electronic devices, including clocks and timers, radio transmitters and receivers, and computer systems. They are also used in telecommunications equipment, test and measurement equipment, and in many other types of electronic devices that require precise timing.

The stability and accuracy of a crystal oscillator is generally much higher than that of other types of electronic oscillators, such as LC or RC oscillators, and the frequency of the output signal is extremely stable over time and temperature changes, making them ideal for applications that require precise timing and stability.

How to connect a crystal oscillator?

A crystal oscillator circuit usually consists of a number of components in addition to the crystal, including an amplifier and a feedback circuit, which work together to generate a stable, precise output signal. The output signal is typically a sine wave or a square wave, and the frequency of the signal is determined by the characteristics of the crystal.

Connecting a crystal oscillator to a circuit is a relatively simple process that typically involves connecting a few wires between the oscillator and the circuit. The specific connection method will depend on the type of crystal oscillator and the circuit to which it is being connected.

Here is a basic overview of the process for connecting a typical crystal oscillator to a circuit:

  1. Identify the pins on the crystal oscillator: Most crystal oscillators have at least two pins, one for the input (or "drive") signal and one for the output signal. Some crystal oscillators may also have additional pins for ground or other functions.
  2. Connect the input and output pins: Connect the input pin of the crystal oscillator to the output pin of the circuit's driver (buffer) , and the output pin of the crystal oscillator to the input pin of the circuit that need the timing signal.
  3. Connect the ground pin (if its present): Connect the ground pin of the crystal oscillator to the circuit's ground.

It's always a good idea to consult the manufacturer's datasheet for your specific crystal oscillator for more detailed instructions on how to connect it to a circuit, and for information about the voltage and current requirements of the device.

Also, it is important to note that, Crystal oscillator is a passive component and it needs a buffer stage to drive the crystal and convert the high impedance input to the low impedance output which can drive the rest of the circuit.

What crystal oscillator frequency should I choose?

The frequency of the crystal oscillator that you need will depend on the specific application in which it will be used. Different electronic devices and systems require different frequencies, and it's important to choose a crystal oscillator with the correct frequency for your application in order for the device to function properly.

Here are a few examples of common applications and the corresponding frequency ranges that are typically used:

  1. Microcontrollers and microprocessors: These devices often require a clock frequency of several MHz, with a common frequency being 16 MHz, 8MHz and 4MHz.
  2. Radio frequency (RF) applications: Many RF applications, such as radios and televisions, require crystal oscillators with frequencies in the MHz range, from few KHz to few GHz.
  3. Clocks and Timers: Crystal oscillators used in clocks and timers typically have frequencies in the KHz range.

It's important to check the specifications of the device or circuit in which you plan to use the crystal oscillator to ensure that the frequency you choose is compatible.

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