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Series 600

Phase Locked Oscillators
API Technologies’ experience with Phase Locked Oscillators covers a period of 25 years; we
have worked closely with System Engineers on some of the most technically sophisticated
programs in the country. The phase locked oscillator must be compatible with other components
in the system and must not only operate properly on the“bench” but must also operate properly
in complex systems. It is necessary to discuss power supply noise, load impedances, and other
system considerations to provide a design that will be successful during the first integration into
the system, thereby avoiding returns,which cause delays for the end- user.


Oscillator Noise AM and FM (Phase) These produce discrete sideband noise at the frequency of
The perfect oscillator produces a signal whose modulation, as shown in Figure 1; they are also called spuri-
spectrum would consist of a single line of infinitesimal width. ous signals. FM noise can also be due to random type modu-
No perfect oscillator has yet been discovered; consequently, lation caused by thermal variations and flicker noise within the
oscillators have noise spectra in accordance with well- device, the Q of the tank circuit, etc. The spectral density plot of
established theory. The spectrum of a typical low noise these sidebands shows a continuous spectrum over a wide
oscillator is shown in Figure 1. range of frequencies similar to broadband noise, sometimes
AM noise is generally far enough below FM noise in called “hash.”
an oscillator that it is of little concern. FM noise can vary From FM theory, the ratio of power in the carrier to one
considerably among manufacturers and shouldn’t be taken of the sidebands due to this noise can be predicted by:
for granted because it can be the limiting factor in applications
like narrow-band communication links, frequency dB = 20 log – 2fm (1)
synthesizers, Doppler radars, etc. It limits the range ∆F
resolution, sensitivity, and channel spacing of these systems.
Control of the discrete noise components is as much the task Where fm = frequency of noise in Hz. The phase noise of a
of the Systems Engineer as the Oscillator Designer. “Pickup” VCO can be improved by phase locking it to a stable reference,
on the tuning line due to unshielded wires, poor filtering, such as a low-frequency Crystal Oscillator; this Reference
grounding, etc. will produce noise sidebands. The oscillator Oscillator can be either internal or external. The phase noise
should be isolated from digital circuitry and separate power of the Output Oscillator will then be 20logN in dB greater
supplies should be used when possible. than the Reference Oscillator within the loop bandwidth
FM noise may be due to discrete modulation signals [N = F Out/F Ref]. The phase noise outside the loop bandwidth
such as power line frequencies and mechanical vibrations. will still be that of the Output Oscillator. Figure 2 is a commonly
used plot for showing phase noise.

■ Low Phase Noise
■ Low Microphonics
■ Rugged Construction
■ Military Options

which is selected to frequencies required for the Phase Detector. total noise measurement. This is the most sensitive at 1 KHz. micro. is called the selected to give the desired output frequency. One of the sources is tunable and is adjusted 90 degrees out of phase to the other For close-in phase noise (<100 Hz). If two identical oscillators are available. it is a less sensitive method. path has a phase shifter of some sort to get the signals in quadrature (90 degrees out of phase). in fact. An internal reference can always be A second method. they may be equal. When Phase Locked Oscillator. The mixer acts as a phase detector as in the first example. will have the uncorrelate the noise with respect to the other .apitech. at offsets greater than the phase noise can be observed using a low-noise. An internal or external crystal modifying a fixed oscillator to act as the Reference. An same stability as the Reference Crystal Oscillator and will amplifier makes up the loss of the delay line. the 10 MHz reference might not be 20 dB better. Now and either may be used. The signal is split into two generally involves a programmable divider to obtain the equal paths. they can be used as the unit under test and as the Simple Phase Locked Oscillator Reference. shown in Figure 4. 1 KHz. which acts like a phase detector. the output frequency is not a multiple of these frequencies. the choice of either under test is down-converted in a double balanced mixer. The approach for other less stable sources. when phase locked to a crystal reference. The DRO or be long enough for the offset frequency being measured to CRO. In the two-source method. the tuning oscillator reference is normally used. The second have improved phase noise within the loop bandwidth. reference will result in 20 dB higher phase noise at 1 KHz and ence. One source. However. the signal of the unit common. If so. low. 3 dB can be subtracted from the final Figure 5 shows a simplified block diagram for a data to show the noise contribution from one source. In cases where discriminator method. a 10 MHz unit (quadrature). then using the 10 MHz method for measuring phase noise. a It is used for measuring VCOs with wide tuning ranges and different phase locking scheme is used. In this case. This is convenient because it requires the customer selects 10 MHz or 100 MHz as a reference and only a single oscillator. input reference frequency. the Refer. should have better phase noise than the unit under test beyond due to the N being 10 times greater (assuming a wide because the phase noise (from both units) contributes to the loop bandwidth). may result in the same output phase noise. For very close-in phase noise. this type of circuit is should be kept to a minimum so that the phase noise is not used when the output frequency is some multiple “N” of the degraded. The output of the mixer is then proportional reference is probably 20 dB better than a 100 MHz reference to the fluctuating phase difference between the inputs. Series 600 Phase Locked Oscillators Measuring Phase Noise Selecting an External Reference Figure 3 shows a common method of measuring 10 MHz and 100 MHz external references are very Phase Noise. one path has a delay line. however. frequency spectrum analyzer.