Basic Colpitts Oscillator

One of the concepts which I’ve been exploring on my blog, concerns tuned circuits, and another concerns Voltage-Controlled Oscillators (VCOs). As one type of voltage-controlled oscillator, I have considered an Astable Multivibrator, which has as advantage a wide frequency-range, but which will eventually have as disadvantage, a limited maximum frequency, when the supply voltage is only 3V. There could be other more-complex types of VCOs that apply, when, say, 200MHz is needed, but one basic type of oscillator which will continue to work under such conditions, which has been known for a century, and which will require an actual Inductor – a discrete coil – is called the Colpitts Oscillator. Here is its basic design:

Colpitz_1.svg

In this schematic I’ve left out actual component values because those will depend on the actual frequency, the available supply voltage, on whether a discrete transistor is to be used or an Integrated Circuit, on whether a bipolar transistor is to be used or a MOSFET… But there are nevertheless certain constraints on the component-values which apply. It’s assumed that C1 and C2 form part of the resonant “Tank Circuit” with L1, that in series, they define the frequency, and that they are to be made equal. C3 is not a capacitor with a critical value, instead to be chosen large enough, just to act as a coupling-capacitor at the chosen frequency (:2) . R2 is to be made consistent with the amount of bias current to flow through Q1, and R1 is chosen so that, as labelled, the correct bias voltage can be applied, in this case, to a MOSFET, without interfering with the signal-frequency, supplied through C3.

I’m also making the assumption that everything to the right of the dotted line would be put on a chip, while everything to the left of the dotted line would be supplied as external, discrete components. This is also why C3, a coupling capacitor, becomes possible.

The basic premise of this oscillator is that C1 and C2 do not only act as a voltage-divider, but that, when the circuit that forms between L1, C1 and C2 is resonant with a considerable Q-factor (>= 5), C1 and C2 actually act as though they were a centre-tapped auto-transformer. If this circuit was not resonating, the behaviour of C1 and C2 would not be so. But as long as it is, it’s possible for a driving voltage, together with a driving current, to be supplied to the connection between C1 and C2, in this case by the Source of Q1, and that the voltage which will form where C1 connects with both L1 and the Gate of Q1 (that last part, through C3), will essentially be the former, driving voltage doubled. Therefore, all that needs to happen on the part of the active component, is to form a voltage-follower, between its Gate and Source, so that the voltage-deviations at the Source, follow from those at the Gate, with a gain greater than (0.5). If that can be achieved, the open-loop gain of this circuit will exceed (1.0), and it will resonate.

It goes without say that C1 and C2 will also isolate whatever DC voltage may exist at the Source of Q1, from the DC voltage of L1.


 

There is a refinement to be incorporated, specifically to achieve a VCO. Some type of varactor needs to be connected in parallel with L1, so that low-frequency voltage-changes on the varactor will change the frequency at which this circuit oscillates, because by definition, a varactor adds variable capacitance.

What some sources will suggest is that, the best way to add a varactor to this circuit will be, to put yet-another coupling capacitor, and a resistor, the latter of which supplies the low-frequency voltage to the varactor. But I would urge my reader to be more-creative, in how a varactor could be added. One way I could think of might be, to get rid of R1 and C3, and instead of terminating L1 together with C2 to ground, to terminate them to the supply voltage, thus ensuring that Q1 is biased ‘On’, even though the coupling capacitor C3 would have been removed in that scenario. What would be the advantage in this case? The fact that The varactor could be implemented on-chip, and not supplied as yet-another, external, discrete component, many of which would eat up progressively more space on a circuit-board, as a complex circuit is being created.

I should also add that some problems will result, if the capacitance to be connected in parallel with L1 becomes as large, as either C1 or C2. An eventual situation will result, in which C1 and C2 stop acting, as though they formed a (voltage-boosting) auto-transformer. An additional voltage-divider would form, between C1 in this case, and the added, parallel capacitance. And this gives more food for thought. (:1)

 

(Possible Usage Scenario : )

(Updated 7/29/2019, 14h45 … )

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Playing with NG-SPICE again, and designing two resonant-circuit bandpass filters.

NG-SPICE is a program designed to simulate circuits. The acronym stands for (Next Generation) Simulation Program, with Integrated Circuit Emphasis. While NG-SPICE is open-source, its cousins such as LT-SPICE and PSpice are proprietary. However, NG-SPICE also uses advanced Mathematical modelling of components and circuits. Sometimes I find it to be an educational toy.

A type of circuit which some people might find interesting, is the IF strip – the Intermediate Frequency stage – of a radio receiver, which receives its signal after the Radio-Frequency signal has been ‘mixed’ with a Local Oscillator, and heterodyned down to the Intermediate Frequencies. And due to modern technology, a final, intermediate frequency of 450kHz can be used both for AM and FM demodulation.

There is a type of resonant circuit that employs capacitors and inductors – i.e., coils, in order to accomplish two things:

  • To act as a bandpass filter, restricting the frequency range,
  • To establish a phase-shift between the incoming carrier wave, and an oscillating, derived wave, that is dependent on the momentary frequency of the carrier wave, so that later in the analog processing of the signal, a phase-discriminator can complete the task of FM demodulation. This task is also referred to as Quadrature Demodulation of an FM carrier.

This type of resonant circuit is also sometimes referred to as a “Tank Circuit”.

In short, I’ve been reinventing the wheel. But I did read an article from elsewhere on the Internet, which inspired me. The subject of that article was, how to design Varactors, which are variable-capacitance diodes, when restricted to only using CMOS transistor-pairs. These diodes would represent a good way to tune circuits and vary the frequency of oscillators, in many types of applications. But I had an application in mind, which this type of varactor would help me solve. The mentioned, “IMOS Varactors” are remarkable because they don’t actually involve any diodes. They involve a way to connect an enhancement-mode P-channel MOSFET, so that the effect of gate-voltage changes on the MOSFET’s gate capacitance, acts as a varactor.

 

If somebody is designing a tuned circuit using the smallest, most-modern coils, manufactured by high-tech factories, then those coils allow for a high Q-factor to exist, which is a measure of how selective the filter can become, as well as to have good thermal stability, but if they are on a budget, these components will have some amount of tolerance, meaning that in a constant way, each component’s actual inductance value will vary to some degree. This is especially unfortunate since high-quality inductors on a budget, are also unlikely to be tunable. If the inductor in question is of a better sort, that ‘only’ has 5% tolerance, this would mean that with an improperly designed radio tuned to an intended AM frequency of 800kHz, instead, the listener could end up receiving a station at 780kHz, or at 820kHz, just because this one filter’s frequency is off by 5%. Of course, real radios that are designed to any level of satisfaction don’t behave that way.

What can be done, is that in the assembly-process for the radio, some machine calibrates its tuned circuits. But again, a maximal use of the main integrated circuit is assumed, and a minimal expense of external, discrete components is assumed. Here, a trimming potentiometer is a more-affordable way to do, what back in the 1970s and 1980s, tunable inductors would have done. If the assumption was made that for reasons I won’t go in to here, The IC can hold an exact voltage steady, then this voltage can also be applied to varactors internal to the IC, in a way that corrects for whatever amount of error was present in the coil.

Even though today, tunable inductors can be bought in quantity that also offer a Q-factor of 48, those aren’t just more expensive than the fixed variety. In addition, those would be much larger components, measuring maybe ‘half a centimetre’ cubed, and requiring to be soldered in to the circuit-board, while the fixed sort can be much smaller units, soldered onto a circuit-board as a surface-mounted device.

And so, reinventing the wheel in order to educate myself, what I have done was to design two circuits, one of which tunes in to 450kHz with the aid of such monolithic varactors, and the second of which does the same at 10Mhz instead. I’m using transistors that are not the tiniest in existence, but which are still too tiny, for an implementation of these ideas to be attempted with discrete components. Capacitances in picofarads should act as a warning to any reader, not to try this with discrete components. It’s much less-risky financially, just to run some simulations using NG-SPICE…

(Updated 7/27/2019, 12h05 … )

Continue reading Playing with NG-SPICE again, and designing two resonant-circuit bandpass filters.