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Electronic oscillator

An electronic oscillator is an electronic circuit that produces a repetitive electronic signal, often a sine wave or a square wave.

Types of Electronic Oscillator There are two main types of electronic oscillator: the harmonic oscillator and the relaxation oscillator.

Harmonic Oscillator

The harmonic oscillator produces a sinusoidal output. The basic form of an harmonic oscillator is an electronic amplifier with the output attached to an electronic filter, and the output of the filter attached to the input of the amplifier. When the power supply to the amplifier is first switched on, the amplifier's output consists only of noise. The noise travels around the loop, being filtered and re-amplified until it increasingly resembles the desired signal.

A piezoelectric crystal may be coupled to the filter to stabilise the frequency of oscillation, resulting in a crystal oscillator.

There are many ways to implement harmonic oscillators, because there are different ways to amplify and filter. For example:

  • Colpitt's oscillator
  • phase-shift oscillator


Colpitt's oscillator circuit diagram.

Relaxation Oscillator

The relaxation oscillator is often used to produce a non-sinusoidal output, such as a square wave or sawtooth. The oscillator contains a nonlinear component such as a transistor that periodically discharges the energy stored in a capacitor or inductor, causing abrupt changes in the output waveform.

Square-wave relaxation oscillators can be used to provide the clock signal for sequential logic circuits such as timers and counters, although crystal oscillators are often preferred for their greater stability.

Triangle-wave or sawtooth oscillators are used in the timebase circuits that generate the horizontal deflection signals for cathode ray tubes in analogue oscilloscopes and television sets.

The multivibrator is another type of relaxation oscillator.



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