Crystal oscillators are one of the most common components being used in today’s electronic products and applications. They use a piezoelectric crystal as their frequency-selective element, which means that the oscillator frequency is ideal for keeping track of time since it provides a stable clock signal. Crystal oscillators are used for a myriad of products that require accurate time-keeping.
However, it’s important to note that what makes a crystal oscillator distinct is its electrostriction property, which means there’s a minor change in the shape of the quartz crystal when introduced to an electric field. Certain applications depend on the small amount of voltage the crystals produce when electricity is removed.
The major benefit of quartz crystal oscillators is that they are able to maintain a frequency with high stability once they adjust to it. Naturally, this begs the question, “What products are crystal oscillators used for in today’s market?”
The businesses that use crystal oscillators aren’t contained to any one application or industry. Let’s break down the top five types of businesses that utilize crystal oscillators.
#1 – Computing and Technology
You’d be hard-pressed to find a computer that isn’t utilizing a quartz crystal oscillator. The majority of CPUs, PICs, micro-controllers, and microprocessors all use quartz crystal oscillators as the device that determines their frequency and generates their clock waveform.
Compared to other methods, crystal oscillators provide the best frequency stability and highest accuracy. That’s why companies like Apple and Microsoft rely on crystal oscillators so heavily when building out their computing products and smartphone devices.
#2 – Timekeeping
When you think of quartz crystal oscillators, you think of time. It probably comes as no surprise that quartz crystal oscillators are used in quartz watches and clocks to keep accurate times in these devices. This has been the case since the 1970s when quartz watches originally entered the market.
Within any given timepiece, the crystal oscillator creates a signal with an extremely precise frequency. This allows watchmakers and clock manufacturers to be able to produce highly accurate traditional and digital timepieces.
Casio, Timex, and Fossil Group are perhaps the most mainstream companies that manufacture timepieces that utilize quartz crystal oscillators.
#3 – Radios and Transmitters
Because radios and transmitters need an ultra-precise frequency reference, it makes sense that the majority of these products utilize quartz crystal oscillators to accomplish that. Once again, this goes back to the crystal oscillator being able to achieve the desired piezoelectric effect.
In fact, radios and transmitters were among some of the first applications to utilize crystal oscillators, which dates all the way back to the early 1920s, when their main application was used for AM radio transmitters.
All the major players in the radio and car stereo business are using quartz crystal oscillators for the radio element in their products. Companies include JVC, Sony, Panasonic, and more.
#4 – Auto
Virtually every modern car being manufactured today utilizes quartz crystal oscillators to provide the required high-frequency stability that automobiles need. This transition to quartz crystals kicked off when automobiles shifted to microprocessor-based systems to provide clock signals.
The difference between quartz crystal oscillators in cars compared to every other product is they must meet more rigorous standards. Most notably, they must be able to operate efficiently in varying temperatures such as extremely hot and extreme cold.
Another difference is that crystal oscillators in automobiles show how versatile this component truly is. They are used for automobile functions such as anti-blocking systems, brake controls, airbags, and tire-pressure monitoring systems.
They are also used in more advanced automobile systems such as advanced driver-assistance systems, GPS, engine control, and in-vehicle internet connectivity.
#5 – Medical Equipment
So much of what’s done in healthcare relies on a machine or device being able to keep accurate time and reliable frequency. For instance, the frequency of a quartz oscillator just so happens to be the same frequency as a person’s hearing range. This means that quartz crystal oscillators are the ideal component to use in auditory equipment, which is used to test hearing.
However, the reliable clock signal that quartz crystal oscillators provide can be used in several other applications beyond auditory. Portable medical equipment is another common application. Currently, Johnson & Johnson, Abbot, and Medtronic are some of the biggest manufacturers of medical equipment in the space.
How to Find Quartz Crystal Oscillator Products
Those looking for quartz crystal oscillator products usually have an application already in mind. Leading manufacturers of these components typically carry a wide range of products including OCXO, TCXO, and VCXO.
You’ll need to be specific with your search parameters to find a manufacturer near you that can provide the components you need. Start by searching “quartz crystal oscillators near me” or a similar phrase. This should bring up companies in your vicinity you can speak with about crystal oscillator products.