Inside Frequency Control


4 Specific Applications That May Require Ultra-Frequency Stability

[fa icon="calendar"] Jan 17, 2018 9:08:00 AM / by Rob Rutkowski

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You may have heard of ultra-stable oscillators, but what are they good for? Just by looking at the name, you can probably tell that they are great for maintaining ultra-frequency stability in applications. But what specific applications require a very high stability to perform optimally? After all, ultra-stable oscillators are pretty much useless without a good application to work with!

In this post, you’re going to learn the top 4 applications that Ultra-Stable Oven Controlled Crystal Oscillators (OCXOs) work best with.

Related: Wondering how and why you should maintain frequency stability in crystal oscillators? Check out our recent post how to maintain frequency stability in crystal oscillators.

1. The Most Common - New Space and Satellite Communications

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The most common need for ultra-stable OCXOs is in new space, satellite, and SmallSat communication apps. A communications satellite is going to endure a high level of vibrations and microvibrations during launch and while traveling in orbit. These vibrations (even tiny microvibrations) have the potential to throw off the frequency in the satellite and could also lead to unnecessary phase noise. Many Ultra-stable OCXOs are designed to take on these vibrations and prevent frequency disruptions. Ultra-stable OCXOs are also being used on NASA deep space missions and on future planetary entry probes. It’s important to maintain high frequency stability in the deep, dark depths of space.

Along the lines of satellites, ultra-stable oscillators are also used in the designs of GPS disciplined oscillators (GPSDO) that are used in GPS and GNSS satellites. GPSDOs work great for timing in GPS satellites because high frequency stability is a must when providing positional accuracy for GPS in navigation.

2. Synthesizers and Test Equipment

Frequency synthesizers are used in many modern devices such as

  • radio receivers
  • televisions
  • mobile telephones
  • radiotelephones
  • walkie-talkies
  • CB radios
  • satellite receivers
  • GPS systems

The stability and accuracy of the frequency synthesizer's output are related to the stability and accuracy of its reference frequency input. Therefore, synthesizers require stable and accurate reference frequencies.

Synthesizers and test equipment need to be spot on accurate when conducting frequency tests or simulations. Otherwise, even small inconsistencies in the frequency can completely throw off the performance of future applications and specs. This is why an ultra-stable oscillator is necessary for these devices…to maintain a spot-on frequency while the application is in use.

3. Military Communications & RADAR

It’s hard to find an environment on earth more extreme than active military environments.

…except maybe near active volcanos

…Or an artic blizzard

Ok! Ok! You get the point. While volcanos and blizzards may also be great environments for an ultra-stable oscillator, military communication devices can be extreme for crystal oscillators as well. This is once again due to their susceptibility to high levels of vibration, large g-force deviations, phase noise, and possibly even activity dips.

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As you can imagine, military communication devices must be spot on 100% of the time. Think of a Doppler Radar used to quickly detect the exact distance, speed, direction, etc. of a close by enemy aircraft. The signal must be extremely exact and give a very accurate reading. It could mean the difference between life and death.

New and growing military communication devices include.

  • Ground Mobile Radios (GMR)
  • Mesh Networks
    • Mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs)
  • Satellite Systems
  • Cognitive Radio
  • And even smart phones

If any of these communication signals are thrown off because of vibrations & other external factors influencing the oscillator, there could be serious consequences. This is especially true for Doppler Radar use. Using an ultra-stable oscillator might be the answer to solving many oscillator problems related to high vibrations or low-g compensation in these extreme environments.

4. Wireless Base Stations

Our entire world is connected and run on timing. Of course, we want the most accurate and precise timing used across the globe through base stations. Otherwise, a wide variety of problems could arise due to even the smallest inconsistencies in timing signals. Rapid and large deviations in temperature are probably the biggest concern when it comes to frequency stability problems in base stations. Ultra-Stable OCXOs allow for a very consistent and precise output pulse, even with frequent deviations in temperature...making them perfect for wireless base stations. 

Hopefully this has given you a better understanding of what specific applications may require a high-quality, Ultra-Stable OCXO. If you have any questions about if an ultra-stable OCXO would work great in your application…contact us! We’d love to find you the best solution for your specific needs.

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Topics: Ultra-Stable, Frequency Stability

Rob Rutkowski

Written by Rob Rutkowski

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