Communication Systems/Voltage-Controlled Oscillators

Voltage Controlled Oscillators (VCO)Edit

A voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) is a device that outputs a sinusoid of a frequency that is a function of the input voltage. VCOs are not time-invariant, linear components. A complete study of how a VCO works will have to be relegated to a more detailed section based on feedback and oscillators. This page will, however, attempt to answer some of the basic questions about VCOs.

A basic VCO has input/output characteristics as such:

v(t) ----|VCO|----> sin(a[f + v(t)]t + O)

VCOs are often implemented using a special type of diode called a "Varactor". Varactors, when reverse-biased, produce a small amount of capacitance that varies with the input voltage.

Phase-Locked LoopsEdit

If you are talking on your cellphone, and you are walking (or driving), the phase angle of your signal is going to change, as a function of your motion, at the receiver. This is a fact of nature, and is unavoidable. The solution to this then, is to create a device which can "find" a signal of a particular frequency, negate any phase changes in the signal, and output the clean wave, phase-change free. This device is called a Phase-Locked Loop (PLL), and can be implemented using a VCO.

Purpose of VCO and PLLEdit

VCO and PLL circuits are highly useful in modulating and demodulating systems. We will discuss the specifics of how VCO and PLL circuits are used in this manner in future chapters.


As a matter of purely professional interest, we will discuss varactors here.

Further readingEdit