The BLOCKING OSCILLATOR is a special type of wave generator used to produce a narrow pulse, or trigger. Blocking oscillators have many uses, most of which are concerned with the timing of some other circuit. They can be used as frequency dividers or counter circuits and for switching other circuits on and off at specific times.
In a blocking oscillator the pulse width (pw), pulse repetition time (prt), and pulse repetition rate (prr) are all controlled by the size of certain capacitors and resistors and by the operating characteristics of the transformer. The transformer primary determines the duration and shape of the output. Because of their importance in the circuit, transformer action and series RL circuits will be discussed briefly. You may want to review transformer action in NEETS, Module 2, Introduction to Alternating Current and Transformers before going to the next section.
Figure 3-31, view (A), shows a transformer with resistance in both the primary and secondary circuits. If S1 is closed, current will flow through R1 and L1. As the current increases in L1, it induces a voltage into L2 and causes current flow through R2. The voltage induced into L2 depends on the ratio of turns between L1 and L2 as well as the current flow through L1.
The secondary load impedance, R2, affects the primary impedance through reflection from secondary to primary. If the load on the secondary is increased (R2 decreased), the load on the primary is also increased and primary and secondary currents are increased.
T1 can be shown as an inductor and R1-R2 as a combined or equivalent series resistance (RE) since T1 has an effective inductance and any change in R1 or R2 will change the current. The equivalent circuit is shown in figure 3-31, view (B). It acts as a series RL circuit and will be discussed in those terms.
Simple Series RL Circuit
When S1 is closed in the series RL circuit (view (B) of figure 3-31) L acts as an open at the first instant as source voltage appears across it. As current begins to flow, EL decreases and ER and I increase, all at exponential rates. Figure 3-32, view (A), shows these exponential curves. In a time equal to 5 time constants the resistor voltage and current are maximum and EL is zero. This relationship is shown in the following formula:
Figure 3-32A.—Voltage across a coil.
If S1 is closed, as shown in figure 3-31, view (B), the current will follow curve 1 as shown in figure 3-32, view (A). The time required for the current to reach maximum depends on the size of L and RE. If RE is small, then the RL circuit has a long time constant. If only a small portion of curve 1 (C to D of view (A)) is used, then the current increase will have maximum change in a given time period. Further, the smaller the time increment the more nearly linear is the current rise. A constant current increase through the coil is a key factor in a blocking oscillator.
Blocking Oscillator Applications
A basic principle of inductance is that if the increase of current through a coil is linear; that is, the rate of current increase is constant with respect to time, then the induced voltage will be constant. This is true in both the primary and secondary of a transformer. Figure 3-32, view (B), shows the voltage waveform across the coil when the current through it increases at a constant rate. Notice that this waveform is similar in shape to the trigger pulse shown earlier in figure 3-1, view (E). By definition, a blocking oscillator is a special type of oscillator which uses inductive regenerative feedback. The output duration and frequency of such pulses are determined by the characteristics of a transformer and its relationship to the circuit. Figure 3-33 shows a blocking oscillator. This is a simplified form used to illustrate circuit operation.
When power is applied to the circuit, R1 provides forward bias and transistor Q1 conducts. Current flow through Q1 and the primary of T1 induces a voltage in L2. The phasing dots on the transformer indicate a 180-degree phase shift. As the bottom side of L1 is going negative, the bottom side of L2 is going positive. The positive voltage of L2 is coupled to the base of the transistor through C1, and Q1 conducts more. This provides more collector current and more current through L1. This action is regenerative feedback. Very rapidly, sufficient voltage is applied to saturate the base of Q1. Once the base becomes saturated, it loses control over collector current. The circuit now can be compared to a small resistor (Q1) in series with a relatively large inductor (L1), or a series RL circuit.
The operation of the circuit to this point has generated a very steep leading edge for the output pulse. Figure 3-34 shows the idealized collector and base waveforms. Once the base of Q1 (figure 3-33) becomes saturated, the current increase in L1 is determined by the time constant of L1 and the total series resistance. From T0 to T1 in figure 3-34 the current increase (not shown) is approximately linear. The voltage across L1 will be a constant value as long as the current increase through L1 is linear.
At time T1, L1 saturates. At this time, there is no further change in magnetic flux and no coupling from L1 to L2. C1, which has charged during time TO to T1, will now discharge through R1 and cut off Q1. This causes collector current to stop, and the voltage across L1 returns to 0.
The length of time between T0 and T1 (and T2 to T3 in the next cycle) is the pulse width, which depends mainly on the characteristics of the transformer and the point at which the transformer saturates. A transformer is chosen that will saturate at about 10 percent of the total circuit current. This ensures that the current increase is nearly linear. The transformer controls the pulse width because it controls the slope of collector current increase between points T0 and T1. Since TC = L ÷ R , the greater the L, the longer the TC. The longer the time constant, the slower the rate of current increase. When the rate of current increase is slow, the voltage across L1 is constant for a longer time. This primarily determines the pulse width.
From T1 to T2 (figure 3-34), transistor Q1 is held at cutoff by C1 discharging through R1 (figure
3-33). The transistor is now said to be "blocked." As C1 gradually loses its charge, the voltage on the base of Q1 returns to a forward-bias condition. At T2, the voltage on the base has become sufficiently positive to forward bias Q1, and the cycle is repeated.
The collector waveform may have an INDUCTIVE OVERSHOOT (PARASITIC OSCILLATIONS) at the end of the pulse. When Q1 cuts off, current through L1 ceases, and the magnetic field collapses, inducing a positive voltage at the collector of Q1. These oscillations are not desirable, so some means must be employed to reduce them. The transformer primary may be designed to have a high dc resistance resulting in a low Q; this resistance will decrease the amplitude of the oscillations. However, more damping may be necessary than such a low-Q transformer primary alone can achieve. If so, a DAMPING resistor can be placed in parallel with L1, as shown in figure 3-35.
When an external resistance is placed across a tank, the formula for the Q of the tank circuit is Q = R/XL, where R is the equivalent total circuit resistance in parallel with L. You should be able to see from the equation that the Q is directly proportional to the damping resistance (R). In figure 3-35, damping resistor R2 is used to adjust the Q which reduces the amplitude of overshoot parasitic oscillations. As R2 is varied from infinity toward zero, the decreasing resistance will load the transformer to the point that pulse amplitude, pulse width, and prf are affected. If reduced enough, the oscillator will cease to function. By varying R2, varying degrees of damping can be achieved, three of which are shown in figure 3-36, view (A), view (B and view (C).
CRITICAL DAMPING gives the most rapid transient response without overshoot. This is accomplished by adjusting R2 to achieve a waveform as shown in figure 3-36, view (A). The resistance of R2 depends upon the Q of the transformer. View (A) shows that oscillations, including the overshoot, are damping out.
UNDERDAMPING gives rapid transient response with overshoot caused by high or infinite resistance as shown in figure 3-36, view (B). OVERDAMPING is caused by very low resistance and gives a slow transient response. It may reduce the pulse amplitude as shown in figure 3-36, view (C).
The blocking oscillator discussed is a free-running circuit. For a fixed prf, some means of stabilizing the frequency is needed. One method is to apply external synchronization triggers (figure 3-37), view (A) and view (B). Coupling capacitor C2 feeds input synchronization (sync) triggers to the base of Q1.
If the trigger frequency is made slightly higher than the free-running frequency, the blocking oscillator will "lock in" at the higher frequency. For instance, assume the free-running frequency of this blocking oscillator is 2 kilohertz, with a prt of 500 microseconds. If sync pulses with a prt of 400 microseconds, or 2.5 kilohertz, are applied to the base, the blocking oscillator will "lock in" and run at 2.5 kilohertz. If the sync prf is too high, however, frequency division will occur. This means that if the sync prt is too short, some of the triggers occur when the base is far below cutoff. The blocking oscillator may then synchronize with every second or third sync pulse.
For example, in figure 3-37, view (A) and view (B) if trigger pulses are applied every 200 microseconds (5 kilohertz), the trigger that appears at T1 is not of sufficient amplitude to overcome the cutoff bias and turn on Q1. At T2, capacitor C1 has nearly discharged and the trigger causes Q1 to conduct. Note that with a 200-microsecond input trigger, the output prt is 400 microseconds. The output frequency is one-half the input trigger frequency and the blocking oscillator becomes a frequency divider.
Q10. What component in a blocking oscillator controls pulse width?