How Oscillators Work


In a simple crystal radio (see How Radio Works for details), a capacitor/inductor oscillator acts as the tuner for the radio. It is connected to an antenna and ground like this:

Thousands of sine waves from different radio stations hit the antenna. The capacitor and inductor want to resonate at one particular frequency. The sine wave that matches that particular frequency will get amplified by the resonator, and all of the other frequencies will be ignored.

In a radio, either the capacitor or the inductor in the resonator is adjustable. When you turn the tuner knob on the radio, you are adjusting, for example, a variable capacitor. Varying the capacitor changes the resonant frequency of the resonator and therefore changes the frequency of the sine wave that the resonator amplifies. This is how you "tune in" different stations on the radio!

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