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Abstract— Voltage Controlled Crystal Oscillators (VCXOs) are
widely used and well known frequency control products. VCXOs
are typically characterized by having wide frequency pulling
ranges (greater than ±50ppm). These oscillators are also
uncompensated for temperature performance. This means
temperature performance of ±20ppm or more is typical over the
industrial range of -40 to 85 °C. Trim effect is a skewing of the
frequency versus temperature performance of a crystal oscillator
as the frequency is pulled (trimmed) away from the oscillator's
nominal frequency. Even though unwanted, the degradation of
performance from trim effect is something generally accepted as
a characteristic of VCXOs. This paper focuses on a method of
compensating crystal oscillator temperature and trim effect using
a multi-dimensional segmented polynomial array. The inherent
trim effect has been reduced from approximately ±11ppm down
to ±0.5ppm. This is a 22-fold improvement over the inherent
performance. The theory of this compensation method will be
discussed, and data showing the results of temperature and trim
effect compensation on actual oscillators will be presented.
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Polynomial Array

John Esterline, and Alan Snavely

Engineering

Esterline Research and Design

Shiremanstown, PA, USA

jesterline@esterlineresearch.com, asnavely@esterlineresearch.com

Abstract Voltage Controlled Crystal Oscillators (VCXOs) are

widely used and well known frequency control products. VCXOs

are typically characterized by having wide frequency pulling

ranges (greater than 50ppm). These oscillators are also

uncompensated for temperature performance. This means

temperature performance of 20ppm or more is typical over the

industrial range of -40 to 85 C. Trim effect is a skewing of the

frequency versus temperature performance of a crystal oscillator

as the frequency is pulled (trimmed) away from the oscillator's

nominal frequency. Even though unwanted, the degradation of

performance from trim effect is something generally accepted as

a characteristic of VCXOs. This paper focuses on a method of

compensating crystal oscillator temperature and trim effect using

a multi-dimensional segmented polynomial array. The inherent

trim effect has been reduced from approximately 11ppm down

to 0.5ppm. This is a 22-fold improvement over the inherent

performance. The theory of this compensation method will be

discussed, and data showing the results of temperature and trim

effect compensation on actual oscillators will be presented.

KeywordsVCXO; Temperature; Trim effect; compensation;

PLL; array

I. INTRODUCTION

Trim effect is a term given to describe the changes in an

oscillators frequency versus temperature characteristic

resulting from an adjustment to its nominal frequency. The

effect is well-known and generally tolerated by oscillator users

primarily because of the inability of oscillator manufacturers

to provide a mitigation for it. In some cases, trim effect has

been observed to degrade oscillator temperature stability in

excess of 10X at adjustment extremes. It is the result of nonlinear characteristics of the resonator and variable capacitance

diode used to adjust the frequency and exists to varying

degrees on all crystal oscillators.

The compensation of oscillator trim effect has received

very little coverage in literature. [2] describes previous work

performed by Greenray Industries where a precision TCXO

was compensated for both temperature stability and trim effect

using an Artificial Neural Network. [3] describes work

performed by C-MAC, where a temperature sensor input was

performance in a TCXO ASIC.

This paper presents a novel method which can be

used to compensate electronic oscillators for temperature

stability, trim effect, or other characteristics resulting from

external stimuli that can be sensed. To demonstrate the utility

of the technology, titled Multidimensional Segmented Array

Compensation, or M-SAC, a 20 MHz, wide-pull VCXO

(>150 ppm) was chosen for temperature and trim effect

compensation. The reasons for this choice were two-fold:

First, because no comparative work could be located which

illustrated a true compensation of trim effect on a crystal

oscillator specified for wide-pull, and secondly, because it was

clear that a wide pull VCXO was just the type of device in

need of trim effect compensation due to the inherent

temperature stability degradation resulting from a large

amount of frequency pulling.

The compensation of trim effect requires first that

frequency versus temperature slopes at the nominal EFC

voltage be reduced as much as possible. This permits an

accurate characterization of temperature stability across the

entire EFC voltage range, thus optimizing the compensation

results. Summarizing the process and the performance

achieved, the VCXO was first characterized over the industrial

temperature range of -40C to +85C and then compensated

from an initial peak to peak temperature stability of 29.090

ppm to 0.246 ppm, as measured at the nominal EFC voltage.

The degraded peak to peak temperature stability resulting

from trim effect was subsequently compensated from 21.080

ppm to 0.992 ppm over all combinations of temperature and

EFC voltage.

The methods used to achieve these

improvements are described in the following sections of this

paper.

Section II provides an overview of the M-SAC

technology. Section III describes the M-SAC configuration

and implementation used to generate the experimental data

contained herein. Section IV summarizes the overall stability

Section V concludes with a review of the M-SAC technology

and a discussion of its potential utilization.

M-SAC is a new curve fitting method which applies

polynomial functions as partial solutions by segmenting a

large set of data into smaller subsets of contiguous points

which can be curve fit to a user-specified degree of precision.

Equation (1) shows the general form of a polynomial of order

, where is the temperature, and the remaining terms are

the coefficients which are solved using regression techniques

to provide a minimum sum square residual error.

(1)

each function contained in the function bank, a curve fit of the

entire data set is attempted. If the specified error tolerance is

not achieved, the end point of the data set is reduced by onehalf of its length and the error is reevaluated until compliance

is achieved. With a point of compliance now defined, the end

point of the new data subset is moved to the halfway point

between the current point of compliance and the last point of

non-compliance and readjusted as necessary until the

maximum number of points achieving compliance with the

current function is determined. This defines the segment

boundaries for the current function. The function type,

coefficients, and start and end temperatures for this segment

are stored for density analysis later. The above process is then

repeated until all functions in the bank have been evaluated.

Next, the function with greatest storage density (the ratio of

the number of data points fit to the number of mathematical

elements in the solution) is selected from the trial results of all

functions tested. The start point for the next segment is the

end point of this segment. The entire process is repeated using

the new start point and the end point of the entire data set until

all points in the original data set are included in a segmented

solution.

Using this technique, the frequency versus

temperature performance of an electronic oscillator can be

curve fit with a residual error approaching the noise level of

the data, if that degree of fit is needed.

In the case of this VCXO and its measured data, a fit

tolerance of less than 1 ppb could be realized. However, this

would result in a very large number of segments. Therefore, a

modest goal of 100 ppb was specified for the curve fit error

tolerance at the nominal EFC voltage. Figure 1 shows the

results achieved for the M-SAC curve fit using this specified

fit tolerance, where it can be seen that a seven segment, 42

element solution was achieved in a little more than 10 seconds

of process time. As shown in Figure 1, the solution utilized

2nd, 3rd, and 4th order polynomial functions (as designated by

P2, P3, and P4 in the trace legend area of the chart as well as

the tables below the chart where the details of the fit equations

and coefficients are also shown). The different order

functions are the result of the storage density optimization

process.

Start

Temp

Func

Code

87.453

80.492

36.828

17.914

-27.281

-33.297

-45.648

4

4

3

3

2

3

2

Function Coefficients

f

e

d

c

1.1776889E02 -5.9895987E02 -1.2097652E02

6.4067345E01 -6.1476533E02 2.2137929E03

-4.3997589E01 2.9648705E02

9.1261340E00 -5.9761029E01

-9.9011705E00

1.8459383E01 -1.0935881E02

8.1593802E01

b

4.4996006E03

-3.5456236E03

-6.6601255E02

1.2911571E02

3.8274398E01

2.1656377E02

-2.6471459E02

a

-5.7335216E03

2.1328487E03

5.0063616E02

-9.0097423E01

-3.4903344E01

-1.4125628E02

2.1591785E02

Function

Code

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

Count

Function

b*T+ a

c * T2 + b * T + a

d * T3 + c * T2 + b * T + a

e * T4 + d * T3 + c * T2 + b * T + a

f * T5 + e * T4 + d * T3 + c * T2 + b * T + a

1/(e(-a * T + b))

a + b * Ln(c * T + 1)

a * e(T * b)

Total Elements

0

2

3

2

0

0

Used

0

0

in

Total Storage

Elements Rq'd

4

5

6

7

8

4

Current Solution

5

4

0

10

18

14

0

0

42

0

0

Figure 2 illustrates the measured temperature stability

performance of the VCXO both before and after the M-SAC

compensation was incorporated. It can be seen that the

measured peak to peak stability performance of 0.246 ppm

closely approximated the predicted performance of 0.183 ppm

shown in Figure 1, thus representing a greater than 100-fold

improvement over the initial uncompensated performance of

29 ppm.

With the frequency stability at the nominal EFC voltage

now compensated, the trim effect can be evaluated. The

frequency versus temperature stability at each EFC voltage is

shown in Figures 3 and 4 below. The raw data is shown in

Figure 3 where some evidence of temperature stability

degradation is evident. Figure 4 is the same data but

the nonlinear degradation resulting from trim effect.

function representing this relationship is shown in (2):

,

(2)

unique temperature-dependent function,

of the form (3)

(3)

temperature. Note: The order of for function (3) does not

necessarily have to match the order of function (2), it only

has to be of sufficient order to fit the solution.

polynomial was selected for the voltage-dependent function

(2) as it was determined that this polynomial provided an

adequate fit of each of the individual voltage-dependent

frequency versus temperature functions shown.

After

inclusion of the temperature-dependent function (3), the entire

solution space was able to be curve fit to within 14 ppb peak

to peak of error using a single segment. By including

segmentation, the predicted residual error was further reduced

to 1ppb peak to peak, which is the noise floor of the actual

data.

hardware configuration for the M-SAC prototype are shown

below in Figures 5 and 6 respectively. The block titled Osc

can be any voltage controlled oscillator, but the device used

for the work presented in this paper was a commercial-off-theshelf, or COTS, 5x7, 20 MHz VCXO.

that the degradation in temperature stability due to trim effect

is significant. At more than 21 ppm peak to peak, this

degradation essentially nullifies the 100-fold improvement in

temperature compensation initially achieved by M-SAC

compensation at the nominal EFC voltage:

It is clear that the degradation in temperature stability due

to trim effect is not simply a linear rotation of the frequency

versus temperature characteristic.

It is a complicated,

interdependent relationship between both temperature and

EFC voltage. This interdependence was also acknowledged

by Ward [3] and resulted in the addition of a temperature

sensor input to a VCXO gain block for improvement of trim

effect performance in a TCXO ASIC, designed by C-MAC.

However, the nature of the relationship between temperature

and voltage was not disclosed in the cited work.

The two blocks titled M-SAC Trim Comp and M-SAC

Temp Comp in Figure 5 are comprised of multiple elements

connected to a microprocessor as shown in Figure 6.

of the individual voltage-dependent frequency versus

temperature curves can be curve fit with using a classic

polynomial function of some order. However, a temperaturedependent dimension must be included if the entire space is to

be curve fit with low residual error. Simulation has shown

that providing unique temperature-dependent polynomial

functions for each coefficient of a single voltage-dependent

function provides a sufficiently large degree of freedom to

Figure 6: Block diagram of the hardware configuration

correction value which is converted to a DC voltage by the

DAC and applied to the EFC input of the VCXO. New

correction values are calculated and implemented at a rate of

about 14 Hz and are derived from the stored segmented MSAC equations using real-time measurements from the Temp

Sensor and ADC sampling of the user-supplied EFC voltage.

Digital and/or hardware filtering may be employed to virtually

eliminate phase noise and short term stability degradation

resulting from the VCXO frequency corrections caused by

EFC updates.

The external Memory contains the M-SAC solutions

and the program to implement them. It also has sufficient

capacity to hold up to 2000 unique storage elements for the

M-SAC solutions.

The actual measured performance resulting from the

implementation of the trim effect compensation solution is

shown in Figure 7, where the initial peak to peak deviation of

21.08 ppm was reduced to 0.992 ppm, representing a more

than 20X improvement in trim effect performance.

It can also be seen that the measured stability

performance in Figure 7 greatly exceeded the 14 ppb

prediction mentioned earlier. Most of this error is due to rate

effect, a phenomenon where the stability performance of a

device measured at one thermal rate differs from stability

performance measured at a different thermal rate. The

primary cause of this effect is a lack of co-location and/or

thermal coupling between the resonator and temperature

sensor used for compensation. Both of these factors are a

consequence of prototype construction using discrete

components for the oscillator and temperature sensor which

can be mitigated through the use of an integrated solution,

such as an ASIC or through the use of chip-scale components

assembled on a medium with greater thermal conductivity.

For the data presented in this paper, the time to acquire

characterization data for the compensation of trim effect was

significantly longer than the time needed for the compensation

of temperature stability at a single EFC voltage. This

difference in acquisition time translated to a significant

decrease in the effective thermal rate for the trim effect

nominal EFC voltage was altered from what was presented in

Figure 2. This alteration was essentially duplicated across all

other EFC voltages as a result of the trim effect compensation.

This is evidenced by the commonality of shape factor of all

curves in Figure 7, and while this shape factor exemplifies an

opportunity for overall performance improvement with an

additional correction run, the more significant observation is

that a common shape factor exists for all voltages. This is a

validation of the function

, (2), used to solve the

voltage-temperature solution space, as the temperature

stability curves measured at voltages not originally used in

characterization fall in line with the stability curves measured

at voltages that were used.

V. CONCLUSION

The data presented in this paper demonstrates that the MSAC technology provides a novel approach for compensating

electronic oscillators for temperature stability as well as

stability degradation resulting from trim effect.

The

segmenting feature of this technology permits the curve fit of

any data set to a user-defined level of error, up to the noise

level of the data itself. If the performance of the device is

repeatable, this technology permits the compensation of

temperature stability to magnitudes normally only achievable

with OCXO designs, but with only a nominal increase in

current over that of a TCXO. This methodology is also

useable for compensation of other environmental effects

commonly seen in crystal oscillators, such as hysteresis,

warm-up, aging, pressure, and acceleration sensitivity to name

a few. If the proper sensing circuitry is contained in the

oscillator and the environmental impact on frequency is

repeatable, the M-SAC methodology should provide a means

with which to fit and compensate for the behavior. Integrating

oscillators into larger systems can sometimes cause

unexpected problems due to differences between testing

environment at manufacture and the environment in the

application.

The M-SAC technology allows for easy

integration at the system level, providing a means of

compensating the oscillator in its final form and environment.

This can provide superior performance over traditional

methods. Additionally, the building blocks of this technology

are easily adaptable for integration into an ASIC. Whether

integrated into an ASIC or simply assembled from the

individual building blocks, the M-SAC technology is wellsuited and easily adaptable for incorporation into oscillators,

systems, or any product or device requiring compensation for

environmental effects or other measurable stimuli.

REFERENCES

[1] Raymond L. Filler et al., Specification and Measurement of the

Frequency Versus Temperature Characteristics of Crystal Oscillators, 43rd

Annual Symposium on Frequency Control, 1989

[2] Esterline, J.C.; , "Trim Effect Compensation using an Artificial Neural

Network, European Frequency and Time Forum & International Frequency

Control Symposium (EFTF/IFC), 2013 Joint, Prague, 2013, pp. 963-966.

[3] Ward, K.R.; , "A novel approach to improving the stability of TCVCXO

temperature performance," Frequency Control Symposium and PDA

Exhibition Jointly with the 17th European Frequency and Time Forum, 2003.

Proceedings of the 2003 IEEE International , vol., no., pp. 473- 477, 4-8 May

2003

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