Colpitts Oscillator

Both the Armstrong and the Hartley oscillators have a tendency to be unstable in frequency because of junction capacitance. In comparison, the COLPITTS OSCILLATOR has fairly good frequency stability, is easy to tune, and can be used for a wide range of frequencies. The large value of split capacitance is in parallel with the junctions and minimizes the effect on frequency stability.

The Colpitts oscillator is very similar to the shunt-fed Hartley oscillator, except that two capacitors are used in the tank circuit instead of a tapped coil (the figure below). The Hartley oscillator has a tap between two coils, while the Colpitts has a tap between two capacitors. You can change the frequency of the Colpitts either by varying the inductance of the coil or by varying the capacitance of the two capacitors in the tank circuit.

Notice that no coupling capacitor is used between the tank circuit and the base of Q1. Capacitors C1 and C2 of the tank circuit are in parallel with the input and the output interelement capacitance (capacitance between emitter, base, and collector) of the transistor. Thus the input and the output capacitive effect can be minimized on the tank circuit and better frequency stability can be obtained than with the Armstrong or the Hartley oscillator.


The next figure below shows a common-base Colpitts oscillator using a pnp transistor as the amplifying device. Notice in this version of the Colpitts oscillator that regenerative feedback is obtained from the tank circuit and applied to the emitter. Base bias is provided by resistor RB and RF. Resistor R C is the collector load resistor. Resistor RE develops the input signal and also acts as the emitter swamping resistor.

The tuned circuit consists of C1 and C2 in parallel with the primary winding of transformer T1. The voltage developed across C2 is the feedback voltage. Either or both capacitors may be adjusted to control the frequency. In the common-base configuration there is no phase difference between the signal at the collector and the emitter signal. Therefore, the phase of the feedback signal does not have to be changed.

When the emitter swings negative, the collector also swings negative and C2 charges negatively at the junction of C1 and C2. This negative charge across C2 is fed back to the emitter. This increases the reverse bias on Q1. The collector of Q1 becomes more negative and C2 charges to a negative potential. This feedback effect continues until the collector of Q1 is unable to become any more negative. At that time the primary of T1 will act as a source because of normal tank circuit operation.

As its field collapses, the tank potential will reverse and C1 and C2 will begin to discharge. As C2 becomes less negative, the reverse bias on Q1 decreases and its collector voltage swings in the positive direction. C1 and C2 will continue to discharge and then charge in a positive direction. This positive-going voltage across C2 will be fed back to the emitter as regenerative feedback. This will continue until the field around the primary of T1 collapses.

At that time the collector of Q1 will be at a maximum positive value. C1 and C2 will begin to discharge and the potential at their junction will become less positive. This increases the reverse bias on Q1 and drives the collector negative, causing C1 and C2 to charge in a negative direction and to repeat the cycle.

Common base Colpitts oscillator.


As mentioned earlier, resistive-capacitive (RC) networks provide regenerative feedback and determine the frequency of operation in RESISTIVE-CAPACITIVE (RC) OSCILLATORS.

The oscillators presented in this chapter have used resonant tank circuits (LC). You should already know how the LC tank circuit stores energy alternately in the inductor and capacitor.

The major difference between the LC and RC oscillator is that the frequency-determining device in the RC oscillator is not a tank circuit. Remember, the LC oscillator can operate with class A or C biasing because of the oscillator action of the resonant tank. The RC oscillator, however, must use class A biasing because the RC frequency-determining device doesn't have the oscillating ability of a tank circuit.

An RC FEEDBACK or PHASE-SHIFT oscillator is shown in the figure below. Components C1, R1, C2, R2, C3, and RB are the feedback and frequency-determining network. This RC network also provides the needed phase shift between the collector and base.

Phase shift oscillator.

We will cover the Phase-shift Oscillator in the next tutorial.

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