Most crystal oscillators and ceramic resonators are used for consumer devices such as wristwatches, clocks, radios, computers, children’s toys and even cellphones. In this article, we will review some main differences between the crystal oscillator and the ceramic resonator. In main functionality the two are not that different. Where they diverge is more in material and degree of ability than in actual function.
The crystal oscillator and ceramic resonator are both electronic oscillator circuits. They both use mechanical resonance from piezoelectric material, like quartz crystal and ceramics, and both create electrical signals of frequency when energized. These frequencies are utilized in many ways for their measurement of wavelength. For example, in a quartz watch, time is kept by measuring the wavelength a quartz crystal emits when electrified with each wave translated into a second gone by.
A crystal oscillator emits a far more precise frequency than does a ceramic resonator. Its Q value (the ratio of the peak energy stored in the resonator in a cycle of oscillation to the energy lost per radian of the cycle) is higher, which means crystal oscillators vibrate longer and provide a frequency output with more stability and accuracy than ceramic resonators. In addition, crystal oscillators have a higher tolerance to heat than ceramic resonators but a lower tolerance to electrostatic discharge. Ceramic resonators are made of Lead Zirconium Titanate (PZT) and are easier to manufacture than crystal oscillators, made out of fine cut quartz. In terms of application, ceramic resonators are used in microprocessors where their frequency stability is not important and crystal oscillators are used for more precise time based applications.
These factors make the use of crystal oscillators more effective and thus more widely used than ceramic resonators. But both serve their purpose, and if a more precise frequency is not required and the presence of heat not a factor, ceramic resonators are a great alternative to crystal oscillators and are usually much cheaper.
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