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Split second accuracy

Improvements in their frequency stability mean ceramic resonators can be used more widely. By Paul Jones.

Designers seeking an accurate clock signal as a reference for all kinds of digital circuitry have come to rely on the quartz crystal oscillator and its tight frequency tolerance and high stability.
Whilst crystals still dominate where the highest precision is required, recent improvements in the frequency stability of ceramic resonators are allowing designers to take advantage of the technology’s lower component count and fast start up characteristics – even in high speed applications such as USB devices.
Quartz crystal technology offers high levels of frequency stability and jitter performance. As a result, crystal oscillators are crucial to applications such as rf and high speed communications, where highly accurate timing and synchronisation are required.
Crystal oscillators are available in a range of frequencies and with high initial accuracy – typically between 10 and 100ppm. Long term ageing characteristics are also favourable, at around 5ppm. Whilst conventional ceramic resonators cannot match this outright accuracy and stability, new materials and processing techniques now allow high precision ceramic oscillators to display significantly closer tolerance than could previously be achieved. Temperature characteristics are also flatter than for established ceramic resonators, which also helps increase operating stability.

Paul Jones

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