TCXO, Temperature Compensated Crystal Oscillator


As the name indicated a temperature compensated crystal oscillator provides a means of counteracting the frequency change caused by temperature change in a crystal oscillator.


The letters TCXO stand for Temperature Compensated Xtal Oscillator - Xtal is short from crystal and implies a quartz crystal resonator. The TCXO module is able to provide considerably improved performance over that of a standard crystal oscillator, especially in terms of frequency stability over a temperature range.


By measuring the temperature and applying a correction voltage to a VCXO, the frequency stability over a temperature range is considerably improved whilst keeping costs low - using an oven controlled crystal oscillator, OCXO would be considerably more costly and much larger in size.


Often a wide range of TCXOs of varying frequencies, supply voltages and packages is available from many distributors, enabling these electronic components or modules to be used in many general electronic designs, RF circuit designs, etc.


Temperature performance of crystal oscillator


Crystal oscillators are able to provide a much better level of performance than that provided by LC resonator circuits. Nevertheless crystal oscillators are still affected by temperature.


The angle of the cut and other aspects of the quartz crystal have a major impact on the performance.


As a result special cuts are defined and one known as the AT cut is the most widely used for these and many other quartz crystal RF applications. This gives a good level of performance for RF circuits in terms of suppression of unwanted modes of vibration as well as the frequency range available, and also the temperature stability.


Despite this, AT cut crystals on their own cannot meet the requirements for many applications and temperature compensation is required if they are to perform satisfactorily over the required range - often 1 - 70°C at elast is needed.


The effects of temperature are, to a large degree, repeatable and definable. Therefore it is possible to have an electronic design to compensate for this. By adding additional electronic components to the basic oscillator, it is possible to considerably reduce the effects caused by temperature changes: a temperature compensated crystal oscillator, TCXO.


TCXO solution


A TCXO adjusts the frequency of the oscillator to compensate for the changes that will occur as a result of temperature changes. To achieve this, the main element within a TCXO is a Voltage Controlled Crystal Oscillator, VCXO. This is connected to a circuit that senses the temperature and applies a small correction voltage to the oscillator as shown below.


INTRODUCTION


The history of the development in crystal filter technology, from the initial concepts of Cady to the current wide range of products, provides a fascinating chapter in the development of today's highly complex electronic products. The crystal filter has been a particularly critical element in the development of narrowband communications systems. The desire to send multiple voice messages on a single telephone line resulted in the introduction of carrier telephone systems in 1916. These early systems used LC filters in the 10 to 40 kHz frequency range. However, the bandwidth limitations caused by realizable coil Q's were quickly recognized. In 1929, W.P. Mason of Bell Laboratories developed methods for incorporating crystals into LC lattice filter networks. This work resulted in the development of a 60 to 108 kHz basic group-band filter set used to frequency multiplex 12 voice channels. This work is described in Mason's 1934 paper which was the basis for essentially all crystal filter designs generated during the next 20 years. During this period the major application for crystal filters was in carrier telephone equipment. However, in the mid-1950s, newer narrowband radio communications systems were developed both for military and commercial use which required high-frequency, stable, narrow-bandwidth filters. In most cases, crystal filters were the answer for these filtering applications and a new manufacturing industry was formed to supply these needs. Other applications quickly followed in navigation and radar equipment, in new fire-control systems, and missile control systems. This increased level of activity resulted in new filter design procedures and substantial improvement in the quality of high-frequency filter crystals.


In the 1960s another major technology step occurred with the development of monolithic crystal filters. Through the 1970s and '80s evolutionary improvements were made with the development of multi-pole monolithic filters and the extension of the high frequency limits through continued process improvements. Significant theoretical work was also accomplished in this period in the area of device modeling. High frequency limits are still being pushed today with blank etching techniques and improved photo-lithography.


DESIGN EVOLUTION


Professor Walter Cady, who carried out much of the original development work on quartz crystals, was apparently the first to suggest the use of crystals as filter elements. In his 1922 paper he shows single-mode crystals with divided electrodes which could be used as coupling elements between adjacent circuits. However, in this configuration, only very narrow bandwidths are achievable and the filter would be useful only as a carrier-frequency filter. In 1927 patent disclosures were filed by L. Espenschied of AT&T and C. Hansell of RCA on the use of crystals in a filter structure. The Espenschied patent shows the use of crystals in a ladder filter structure in a variety of configurations. He also shows the use of inductors in series or in shunt with the crystals to widen the filter bandwidth. In Hansell's patent the use of a bridge circuit is shown using all capacitors or a center-tapped transformer to balance out the crystal shunt capacitance. This is essentially the hybrid-lattice configuration which is commonly used in discrete crystal filters. He also proposed a method for widening the bandwidth by placing several crystals with slightly different frequencies in parallel. The challenge of providing filters with useful bandwidths was apparent from the earliest days and many techniques (usually unsuccessful, including Hansell's) were attempted. In his patent Hansell makes the interesting observation that "The crystal filter has the advantage of being so sharply selective that the necessity for more than a single section probably will never arise."


Ceramic Filtration


Locally manufactured ceramic filters have traditionally been used throughout the world to treat household water. Currently, the most widely implemented ceramic filter is the Potters for Peace design. The filter is flowerpot shaped, holds about 8-10 liters of water, and sits inside a plastic or ceramic receptacle. To use the ceramic filters, families fill the top receptacle or the ceramic filter itself with water, which flows through the ceramic filter or filters into a storage receptacle. The treated water is then accessed via a spigot embedded within the water storage receptacle. The filters are produced locally at ceramics facilities, and then impregnated with colloidal silver to ensure complete removal of bacteria in treated water and to prevent growth of bacteria within the filter itself. Numerous other locally-made and commercial ceramic filters are widely available in developed and developing countries. The filter is flowerpot shaped, holds about 8-10 liters of water, and sits inside a plastic or ceramic receptacle. To use the ceramic filters, families fill the top receptacle or the ceramic filter itself with water, which flows through the ceramic filter or filters into a storage receptacle. The treated water is then accessed via a spigot embedded within the water storage receptacle. The filters are produced locally at ceramics facilities, and then impregnated with colloidal silver to ensure complete removal of bacteria in treated water and to prevent growth of bacteria within the filter itself. Numerous other locally-made and commercial ceramic filters are widely available in developed and developing countries.


Lab Effectiveness, Field Effectiveness, and Health Impact


The effectiveness of ceramic filters at removing bacteria, viruses, and protozoa depends on the production quality of the ceramic filter. Most ceramic filters are effective at removing bacteria and the larger protozoans, but not at removing the viruses. Studies have shown adequate removal of bacterial pathogens in water filtered through high quality locally-produced or imported ceramic filters in developing countries. A 60-70% reduction in diarrheal disease incidence has been documented in users of these filters. Studies have also shown significant bacterial contamination when poor-quality locally produced filters are used, or when the receptacle is contaminated at the household level. Because there is no chlorine residual protection, it is important that users be trained to properly care for and maintain the ceramic filter and receptacle.


What Is a Ceramic Resonator?


A ceramic resonator is an electric component that exhibits a series resonant and a parallel resonant center frequency. It exhibits a piezoelectric characteristic that makes the ceramic material generate minute electrical energy when subjected to electromechanical expansion and compression. The resulting mechanical energy component produces the electric component and vice versa, and the result is a complex reactance that leads to resonance observed as the characteristic of having a center frequency. Materials such as lead zirconium titanate have a ceramic piezoelectric characteristic.


Oscillators are electronic circuits that generate periodic waveforms. The ceramic resonator may be used as a frequency reference in the electronic oscillator, wherein the accuracy of the resulting frequency is not as high as in the crystal oscillator. Error in frequency for the ceramic resonator circuit may be as high as 5%, while that for the crystal oscillator is less than 0.1%.


The ceramic resonator may also be used for intermediate frequency (IF) amplifier stages, which are found in heterodyne radio receivers that derive a common IF to receive a sub-band of frequencies. For instance, a radio receiver tuned to 1,000 kilohertz (kHz) or 1,000 cycles per second may generate a local oscillator frequency of 1,455 kHz so that the difference is 455 kHz, which is a typical IF frequency. To receive a 1,500 kHz signal, the local oscillator is tuned to 1,955 kHz and the resulting difference is still 455 kHz. This ceramic resonator is tuned or cut to resonate at around 455 kHz and will serve a sub-band like 550 to 1,600 kHz as in a typical amplitude modulation (AM) band.


A typical ceramic resonator has three terminals. The two main terminals are at each wide side of a thin ceramic material, while the middle terminal is usually connected to the thin side and may be grounded or used to tap signal into the rest of the oscillator circuit. There are, however, ceramic resonators as well as crystal resonators with only two terminals.


Amplifiers are the active parts of the oscillator. The ratio of the output voltage to the input voltage of an amplifier is known as the voltage gain, which is dependent on the frequency of interest. Very few amplifiers will maintain a constant gain over a wide range of frequency. When a ceramic resonator controls the oscillator frequency, the voltage gain at the ceramic resonator frequency has to be greater than 1. If the voltage gain is less than 1, the amplifier will not start oscillating.


In electronics, design amplifiers and oscillators have very common components. With design shortcomings, some amplifiers can be very close to oscillating. Meanwhile, some oscillators may just stop oscillating and behave like idle amplifiers. Ideally, amplifiers do not have output when there is no input signal.

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