Computing stuff tied to the physical world

Resonator and crystal

In Hardware on Mar 11, 2013 at 00:01

Today, some more experiments with a sweep frequency to see how different components respond to it, beyond the cap-which-is-also-an-inductor of yesterday.

The first one I’d like to show is the 16 MHz resonator used in JeeNodes:


As you can expect it has a very sharp impedance change at its 16 MHz frequency:


(The bottom half is a greatly zoomed-in section from the far right of the entire sweep)

The blue area sticking out the back is the current through the resonator. As you can see, there is a very noticeable yet narrow range of frequencies at which things change. Plus a little parasitic inductance, indicated by a modest rise in signal amplitude near the 20 MHz end of the range.

An even more pronounced frequency-dependent component is the crystal, as used in just about every digital device around us these days. Crystals can have several different “modes” of oscillation, and can in fact resonate on different frequencies if the oscillator circuit around it is not designed properly.

Here, you can in fact see two modes of oscillation: a series-resonant “dip”, followed by a parallel-resonant “peak”. Note that this is a 10 MHz crystal, taken from an RFM12B module, with the total sweep scale from left to right being only 9.99 .. 10.01 MHz:


The resonant frequency seems to be about 150 ppm low, which is not surprising, since the crystal is not being driven by a real oscillator at all, nor with the proper capacitive loading – it’s simply “resonating along” with the frequencies applied to it.

These pictures as not just gimmicks. If you think about it, the behaviours shown above in a way almost define what these resonators and crystals do. It is precisely this “little” effect on impedance which allows us to create oscillators that resonate at very specific frequencies. Without them, we’d still be living in Tesla’s and Marconi’s age of sparks: maybe enough to get some morse code across, but a far cry from fitting dozens of HD television channels into separate adjacent frequency bands – or a fiberoptic cable, for that matter.

Tomorrow, I’ll have one final surprising result to show you w.r.t. “parasitics” …

  1. I’m really enjoying this series, it’s interesting stuff to see.

  2. Maybe educate us on Bode diagrams? That’ll make the resonance of the ‘crystal’ even clearer, with both magnitude and phase changes. :)

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