The Differences Between Oscillators and Resonators

When working with electronic circuits and components, it can be difficult to determine exactly what different parts are and what they do when you are more unfamiliar with such assemblies. For example, oscillators and resonators are two components that are quite common to electrical assemblies, and they perform important, yet quite different, roles. As such, it can be beneficial to have a basic understanding of the two components and their functionality.

With an oscillator, direct current (DC) power flowing through a circuit can be converted into alternating current (AC) with a specific frequency. Oscillators are considered active devices, and they form what is known as an oscillator circuit upon installation. As compared to resonators, oscillators feature an additional control circuit, and they serve to produce repetitive electronic signals. Depending on the exact needs of an application, there are a number of oscillator types that one may take advantage of.

One of the most popular types of oscillator is the crystal oscillator, and such components are known for offering good signal quality, stability, and simple connections. Crystal oscillators will usually feature a PI type filter network that is made up of a capacitor and a resistor that filters signals at the output end of the device, making them fairly simplistic in terms of circuit configurations. For their applications, projects with sensitive timing requirements benefit the most. Despite this, crystal oscillators feature fixed signal levels with the requirement of setting the appropriate output level, that of which is not an issue with crystal resonators. Additionally, crystal oscillators are also known for being somewhat expensive with poor flexibility.

When it comes to resonators, such electronic components are able to generate a resonant frequency as a passive device. In order to function and generate clock outputs, resonators need a peripheral circuit as a driver. Like oscillators, resonators come in a variety of types, the most notable groups being quartz crystal and ceramic resonators. With quartz crystal resonators, a variable signal level is provided, and such components may be used for a diverse set of chips that vary in their clock signal voltage requirements. Despite this advantage, such components are non-polar and require the help of a clock circuit for oscillation.

With ceramic resonators, a piezoelectric ceramic assembly is constructed for the means of oscillating at a specific frequency. The quality factor of ceramic resonators is often lower than that of quartz, but their lower price point makes them a more efficient option for applications that are not as rigorous in their requirements. Additionally, ceramic resonators also lack frequency and temperature stability, that of which may be an important need depending on the application at hand.

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