oscillators for microcontrollers

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    June 1983

    Oscillatorsfor Microcontrollers



    Order Number: 230659-001

  • Information in this document is provided in connection with Intel products. Intel assumes no liability whatsoev-er, including infringement of any patent or copyright, for sale and use of Intel products except as provided inIntels Terms and Conditions of Sale for such products.

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    Contact your local Intel sales office or your distributor to obtain the latest specifications before placing yourproduct order.

    Copies of documents which have an ordering number and are referenced in this document, or other Intelliterature, may be obtained from:

    Intel CorporationP.O. Box 7641Mt. Prospect, IL 60056-7641

    or call 1-800-879-4683






    Loop Gain 1

    How Feedback Oscillators Work 2

    The Positive Reactance Oscillator 2


    Crystal Parameters 3

    Equivalent Circuit 3

    Load Capacitance 4

    Series vs. Parallel Crystals 4

    Equivalent Series Resistance 4

    Frequency Tolerance 5

    Drive Level 5


    Specifications for Ceramic Resonators 6


    On-Chip Oscillators 6

    Crystal Specifications 6

    Oscillation Frequency 7

    Selection of CX1 and CX2 7

    Placement of Components 7

    Clocking Other Chips 7

    External Oscillators 8

    Gate Oscillators vs. Discrete Devices 10

    Fundamental vs. OvertoneOperation 11

    Series vs. Parallel Operation 11



    Oscillator Calculations 11

    Start-Up Characteristics 13

    Steady-State Characteristics 15

    Pin Capacitance 16

    MCS-51 Oscillator 16MCS-48 Oscillator 16


    Pre-Production Tests 19

    Troubleshooting Oscillator Problems 20



  • AP-155


    Intels microcontroller families (MCS-48, MCS-51,and iACX-96) contain a circuit that is commonly re-ferred to as the on-chip oscillator. The on-chip cir-cuitry is not itself an oscillator, of course, but an ampli-fier that is suitable for use as the amplifier part of afeedback oscillator. The data sheets and MicrocontollerHandbook show how the on-chip amplifier and severaloff-chip components can be used to design a workingoscillator. With proper selection of off-chip compo-nents, these oscillator circuits will perform better thanalmost any other type of clock oscillator, and by almostany criterion of excellence. The suggested circuits aresimple, economical, stable, and reliable.

    We offer assistance to our customers in selecting suit-able off-chip components to work with the on-chip os-cillator circuitry. It should be noted, however, that In-tel cannot assume the responsibility of writing specifi-cations for the off-chip components of the complete os-cillator circuit, nor of guaranteeing the performance ofthe finished design in production, anymore than a tran-sistor manufacturer, whose data sheets show a numberof suggested amplifier circuits, can assume responsibili-ty for the operation, in production, of any of them.

    We are often asked why we dont publish a list of re-quired crystal or ceramic resonator specifications, andrecommend values for the other off-chip components.This has been done in the past, but sometimes withconsequences that were not intended.

    Suppose we suggest a maximum crystal resistance of 30ohms for some given frequency. Then your crystal sup-plier tells you the 30-ohm crystals are going to costtwice as much as 50-ohm crystals. Fearing that Intelwill not guarantee operation with 50-ohm crsytals,you order the expensive ones. In fact, Intel guaranteesonly what is embodied within an Intel product. Besides,there is no reason why 50-ohm crystals couldnt beused, if the other off-chip components are suitably ad-justed.

    Should we recommend values for the other off-chipcomponents? Should we do it for 50-ohm crystals or 30-ohm crystals? With respect to what should we optimizetheir selection? Should we minimize start-up time ormaximize frequency stability? In many applications,neither start-up time nor frequency stability are partic-ularly critical, and our recommendations are only re-stricting your system to unnecessary tolerances. It alldepends on the application.

    Although we will neither specify nor recommendspecific off-chip components, we do offer assistance inthese tasks. Intel application engineers are available toprovide whatever technical assistance may be needed ordesired by our customers in designing with Intel prod-ucts.

    This Application Note is intended to provide such as-sistance in the design of oscillator circuits for micro-controller systems. Its purpose is to describe in a practi-cal manner how oscillators work, how crystals and ce-ramic resonators work (and thus how to spec them),and what the on-chip amplifier looks like electronicallyand what its operating characteristics are. A BASICprogram is provided in Appendix II to assist the de-signer in determining the effects of changing individualparameters. Suggestions are provided for establishing apre-production test program.


    Loop Gain

    Figure 1 shows an amplifier whose output line goes intosome passive network. If the input signal to the amplifi-er is v1, then the output signal from the amplifer is v2e Av1 and the output signal from the passive networkis v3 e bv2 e bAv1. Thus bA is the overall gainfrom terminal 1 to terminal 3.


    Figure 1. Factors in Loop Gain

    Now connect terminal 1 to terminal 3, so that the sig-nal path forms a loop: 1 to 2 to 3, which is also 1. Nowwe have a feedback loop, and the gain factor bA iscalled the loop gain.

    Gain factors are complex numbers. That means theyhave a magnitude and a phase angle, both of whichvary with frequency. When writing a complex number,one must specify both quantities, magnitude and angle.A number whose magnitude is 3, and whose angle is 45degrees is commonly written this way: 3K45. The num-ber 1 is, in complex number notation, 1K0, while b1 is1K180.

    By closing the feedback loop in Figure 1, we force theequality

    v1 e bAv1

    This equation has two solutions:

    1) v1 e 0;

    2) bA e 1K0.


  • AP-155

    In a given circuit, either or both of the solutions may bein effect. In the first solution the circuit is quiescent (nooutput signal). If youre trying to make an oscillator, ano-signal condition is unacceptable. There are ways toguarantee that the second solution is the one that willbe in effect, and that the quiescent condition will beexcluded.

    How Feedback Oscillators Work

    A feedback oscillator amplifies its own noise and feedsit back to itself in exactly the right phase, at the oscilla-tion frequency, to build up and reinforce the desiredoscillations. Its ability to do that depends on its loopgain. First, oscillations can occur only at the frequencyfor which the loop gain has a phase angle of 0 degrees.Second build-up of oscillations will occur only if theloop gain exceeds 1 at the frequency. Build-up contin-ues until nonlinearities in the circuit reduce the averagevalue of the loop gain to exactly 1.

    Start-up characteristics depend on the small-signalproperties of the circuit, specifically, the small-signalloop gain. Steady-state characteristics of the oscillatordepend on the large-signal properties of the circuit,such as the transfer curve (output voltage vs. inputvoltage) of the amplifier, and the clamping effect of theinput protection devices. These things will be discussedmore fully further on. First we will look at the basicoperation of the particular oscillator circuit, called thepositive reactance oscillator.

    The Positive Reactance Oscillator

    Figure 2 shows the configuration of the positive reac-tance oscillator. The inverting amplifier, working intothe impedance of the feedback network, produces anoutput signal that is nominally 180 degrees out of phasewith its input. The feedback network must provide anadditional 180 degrees phase shift, such that the overallloop gain has zero (or 360) degrees phase shift at theoscillation frequency.


    Figure 2. Positive Reactance Oscillator

    In order for the loop gain to have zero phase angle it isnecessary that the feedback element Zf have a positivereactance. That is, it must be inductive. Then, the fre-quency at which the phase angle is zero is approximate-ly the frequency at which

    Xf ea10C

    where Xf is the reactance of Zf (the total Zf being Rf ajXf, and C is the series combination of CX1 and CX2.

    C eCX1 CX2

    CX1 a CX2

    In other words, Zf and C form a parallel resonant cir-cuit.

    If Zf is an inductor, then Xf e 0L, and the frequencyat which the loop gain has zero phase is the frequencyat which

    0L e1



    0 e1

    0LCNormally, Zf is not an inductor, but it must still have apositive reactance in order for the circuit to oscillate.There are some piezoelectric devices on the market thatshow a p