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Temperature and Trim Effect Compensation of a

VCXO Using a Multidimensional Segmented

Polynomial Array
John Esterline, and Alan Snavely
Esterline Research and Design
Shiremanstown, PA, USA,
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

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

added to a VCXO gain block to improve trim effect

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
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

performance realized from the M-SAC implementation.

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.


The M-SAC fitting process functions as follows: For

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
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





Function Coefficients

1.1776889E02 -5.9895987E02 -1.2097652E02
6.4067345E01 -6.1476533E02 2.2137929E03
-4.3997589E01 2.9648705E02
9.1261340E00 -5.9761029E01
1.8459383E01 -1.0935881E02



Function Bank Utilization Summary


Function Equation Detail

Function Usage Elements per


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



Total Storage
Elements Rq'd

Current Solution


Figure 1: Predicted Compensation Performance

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.

Figure 2: Measured temperature stability after compensation.

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

normalized to +25C to rescale the chart and better illustrate

the nonlinear degradation resulting from trim effect.

permit a segmented curve fit of the entire solution space. The

function representing this relationship is shown in (2):


where is the EFC voltage, and for every order of (2), a

unique temperature-dependent function,
of the form (3)


is included as an additional coefficient of (2), where is

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.

Figure 3: Measured temp stability at EFC=1.65V (post comp)

For the performance illustrated in Figure 4, a 6th order

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.
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


Figure 4: Data from Figure 3 normalized to +25C.

Block diagrams of the compensation schema and

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.

It can be seen from the performance illustrated in Figure 4

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.

Figure 5: Block diagram of the M-SAC compensation schema

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.

Referring to the curves in Figure 4, it is obvious that any

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

Functionally, the microprocessor calculates a digital

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.

Figure 7: Measured trim effect error after compensation.

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

characterization test such that the stability performance at the

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.

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.
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
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.
[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