Armstrong Oscillator

The ARMSTRONG OSCILLATOR is used to produce a sine-wave output of constant amplitude and of fairly constant frequency within the rf range. It is generally used as a local oscillator in receivers, as a source in signal generators, and as a radio-frequency oscillator in the medium- and high-frequency range.

The identifying characteristics of the Armstrong oscillator are that (1) it uses an LC tuned circuit to establish the frequency of oscillation, (2) feedback is accomplished by mutual inductive coupling between the tickler coil and the LC tuned circuit, and (3) it uses a class C amplifier with self-bias. Its frequency is fairly stable, and the output amplitude is relatively constant.

Views (A), (B), and (C) shown in the figure below can be used to build the basic Armstrong oscillator. View (A) shows a conventional amplifier. R2 provides the forward bias for Q1, C2 is a coupling capacitor, and L1 and R1 form the collector load impedance. This is a common-emitter configuration which provides the 180-degree phase shift between the base and collector.

Basic Armstrong oscillator circuit AMPLIFIER.

Basic Armstrong oscillator circuit FREQUENCY-DETERMINING-DEVICE.

Basic Armstrong oscillator circuit FEEDBACK-NETWORK.

Basic Armstrong oscillator circuit OSCILLATOR.

View (B) shows the frequency-determining device composed of inductor L2 and capacitor C1. C1 is a variable tuning capacitor which is used to adjust the resonant frequency to the desired value.

View (C) is the feedback network which uses L1 (the collector load) as the primary and L2 as the secondary winding of a coupling transformer to provide a 180-degree phase shift. Variable resistor R1 controls the amount of current through L1. When R1 is adjusted for maximum resistance, most of the current flows through L1.

The transformer now couples a maximum signal which represents a large feedback amplitude into the tank circuit (L2, C1). If R1 is adjusted for a smaller resistance, less current flows through L1, and less energy is coupled to the tank circuit; therefore, feedback amplitude decreases. R1 is normally adjusted so that the L1 current is adequate to sustain tank oscillations.

View (D) shows the complete oscillator circuit. Connecting the feedback network through coupling capacitor C2 to the base of Q1 forms a "closed loop" for feedback (shown by the solid arrows). Let's verify that the feedback is regenerative. Assume a positive signal on the base of Q1. The transistor conducts heavily when forward biased. This current flow through L1 and R1 causes the voltage across L1 to increase. The voltage increase is inductively coupled to L2 and inverted. This action ensures that the voltage is positive at the base end of L2 and C1 and in phase with the base voltage. The positive signal is now coupled through C2 to the base of Q1. The regenerative feedback offsets the damping in the frequency-determining network and has sufficient amplitude to provide unity circuit gain.

The circuit in view (D) has all three requirements for an oscillator: (1) amplification, (2) a frequency- determining device, and (3) regenerative feedback. The oscillator in this schematic drawing is a tuned- base oscillator, because the fdd is in the base circuit. If the fdd were in the collector circuit, it would be a tuned-collector oscillator. The circuit in view (D) is basically an Armstrong oscillator.

Refer to th figure again, view (D), for the following discussion of the circuit operation of the Armstrong oscillator. When VCC is applied to the circuit. a small amount of base current flows through R2 which sets the forward bias on Q1. This forward bias causes collector current to flow from ground through Q1, R1, and L1 to +VCC. The current through L1 develops a magnetic field which induces a voltage into the tank circuit. The voltage is positive at the top of L2 and C1. At this time, two actions occur.

First, resonant tank capacitor C1 charges to this voltage; the tank circuit now has stored energy. Second, coupling capacitor C2 couples the positive signal to the base of Q1. With a positive signal on its base, Q1 conducts harder. With Q1 conducting harder, more current flows through L1, a larger voltage is induced into L2, and a larger positive signal is coupled back to the base of Q1. While this is taking place, the frequency- determining device is storing more energy and C1 is charging to the voltage induced into L2.

The transistor will continue to increase in conduction until it reaches saturation. At saturation, the collector current of Q1 is at a maximum value and cannot increase any further. With a steady current through L1, the magnetic fields are not moving and no voltage is induced into the secondary.

With no external voltage applied, C1 acts as a voltage source and discharges. As the voltage across C1 decreases, its energy is transferred to the magnetic field of L2. Now, let's look at C2.

The coupling capacitor, C2, has charged to approximately the same voltage as C1. As C1 discharges, C2 discharges. The primary discharge path for C2 is through R2 (shown by the dashed arrow). As C2 discharges, the voltage drop across R2 opposes the forward bias on Q1 and collector current begins to decrease. This is caused by the decreasing positive potential at the base of Q1.

A decrease in collector current allows the magnetic field of L1 to collapse. The collapsing field of L1 induces a negative voltage into the secondary which is coupled through C2 and makes the base of Q1 more negative. This, again, is regenerative action; it continues until Q1 is driven into cutoff.

When Q1 is cut off, the tank circuit continues to flywheel, or oscillate. The flywheel effect not only produces a sine-wave signal, but it aids in keeping Q1 cut off. Without feedback, the oscillations of L2 and C1 would dampen out after several cycles.

To ensure that the amplitude of the signal remains constant, regenerative feedback is supplied to the tank once each cycle, as follows: As the voltage across C1 reaches maximum negative, C1 begins discharging toward 0 volts. Q1 is still below cutoff. C1 continues to discharge through 0 volts and becomes positively charged. The tank circuit voltage is again coupled to the base of Q1, so the base voltage becomes positive and allows collector current to flow. The collector current creates a magnetic field in L1, which is coupled into the tank. This feedback action replaces any lost energy in the tank circuit and drives Q1 toward saturation. After saturation is reached, the transistor is again driven into cutoff.

The operation of the Armstrong oscillator is basically this: Power applied to the transistor allows energy to be applied to the tank circuit causing it to oscillate. Once every cycle, the transistor conducts for a short period of time (class C operation) and returns enough energy to the tank to ensure a constant amplitude output signal.

Class C operation has high efficiency and low loading characteristics. The longer Q1 is cut off, the less the loading on the frequency-determining device.

The figure below shows a tuned-base Armstrong oscillator as you will probably see it. R3 has been added to improve temperature stability. Bypass capacitor C3 prevents degeneration. C4 is an output coupling capacitor, and impedance-matching transformer T2 provides a method of coupling the output signal. T2 is usually a loosely coupled rf transformer which reduces undesired reflected impedance from the load back to the oscillator.

Tuned base Armstrong oscillator.

The Armstrong oscillator is an example of how a class C amplifier can produce a sine-wave output that is not distorted. Although class C operation is nonlinear and many harmonic frequencies are generated, only one frequency receives enough gain to cause the circuit to oscillate. This is the frequency of the resonant tank circuit. Thus, high efficiency and an undistorted output signal can be obtained.

The waveforms in the figure below illustrate the relationship between the collector voltage and collector current. Notice that collector current (IC) flows for only a short time during each cycle. While the tank circuit is oscillating (the figure above), L2 acts as the primary of the transformer and L1 acts as the secondary. The signal from the tank is, therefore, coupled through T1 to coupling capacitor C4, and the output voltage across L4 is a sine wave.

Collector current and voltage waveforms of a class C oscillator.

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