Draw a neat block diagram of CRO and explain its functioning. Also comment on the role of sweep in CRO.
1 Answer

The cathode-ray oscilloscope (CRO) is a common laboratory instrument that provides accurate time and amplitude measurements of voltage signals over a wide range of frequencies. Its reliability, stability, and ease of operation makes it suitable as a general purpose laboratory instrument. Figure shows the basic block diagram of a general purpose CR oscilloscope.

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A general purpose oscilloscope consists of the following parts:

  1. Cathode ray tube

  2. Vertical amplifier

  3. Delay line

  4. Time base generator

  5. Horizontal amplifier

  6. Trigger circuit

  7. Power supply

Cathode Ray Tube - It is the heart of the oscilloscope. When the electrons emitted by the electron gun strikes the phosphor screen, a visual signal is displayed on the CRT.

Vertical Amplifier - The input signals are amplified by the vertical amplifier. Usually, the vertical amplifier is a wide band amplifier which passes the entire band of frequencies.

Delay Line - As the name suggests, this circuit is used to delay the signal for a period of time in the vertical section of CRT. The input signal is not applied directly to the vertical plates because the part of the signal gets lost, when the delay time is not used. Therefore, the input signal is delayed by a period of time.

Time Base (Sweep) Generator - Time base circuit uses a uni-junction transistor, which is used to produce the sweep. The saw tooth voltage produced by the time base circuit is required to deflect the beam in the horizontal section. The spot is deflected by the saw tooth voltage at a constant time dependent rate.

Horizontal Amplifier - The saw tooth voltage produced by the time base circuit is amplified by the horizontal amplifier before it is applied to horizontal deflection plates.

Trigger Circuit - The signals which are used to activate the trigger circuit are converted to trigger pulses for the precision sweep operation whose amplitude is uniform. Hence input signal and the sweep frequency can be synchronized.

Power supply - The voltages required by CRT, horizontal amplifier, and vertical amplifier are provided by the power supply block. It is classified into two types -

(1) Negative high voltage supply

(2) Positive low voltage supply

The voltage of negative high voltage supply is from -1000V to -1500V. The range of positive voltage supply is from 300V to 400V.


  • The cathode ray is a beam of electrons which are emitted by the heated cathode (negative electrode) and accelerated toward the fluorescent screen. The assembly of the cathode, intensity grid, focus grid, and accelerating anode (positive electrode) is called an electron gun

  • Its purpose is to generate the electron beam and control its intensity and focus. Between the electron gun and the fluorescent screen are two pair of metal plates - one oriented to provide horizontal deflection of the beam and one pair oriented to give vertical deflection to the beam. These plates are thus referred to as the horizontal and vertical deflection plates

  • The combination of these two deflections allows the beam to reach any portion of the fluorescent screen. Wherever the electron beam hits the screen, the phosphor is excited and light is emitted from that point. This conversion of electron energy into light allows us to write with points or lines of light on an otherwise darkened screen

  • The linear deflection or sweep of the beam horizontally is accomplished by use of a sweep generator that is incorporated in the oscilloscope circuitry.

  • In the most common use of the oscilloscope, the signal to be studied is first amplified and then applied to the vertical (deflection) plates to deflect the beam vertically, and at the same time, a voltage that increases linearly with time is applied to the horizontal (deflection) plates, thus causing the beam to be deflected horizontally at a uniform rate

  • The signal applied to the vertical plates is thus displayed on the screen as a function of time. The horizontal axis serves as a uniform time scale

Role of sweep in CRO

  • The sweep, also known as saw tooth pulse, is required to deflect the beam in the horizontal section

  • To obtain steady traces on the tube face, an internal number of cycles of the unknown signal must be associated with each cycle of the sweep generator. Thus, with such a matching of synchronization of the two deflections, the pattern on the tube face repeats itself and hence appears to remain stationary

  • The persistence of vision of the human eye and of the glow of the fluorescent screen aids in producing a stationary pattern

  • In simple words, the sweep is the horizontal speed of the cathode ray tube’s spot which is used to create a trace. This ensures that the signal being tested is locked on the screen and does not drift.

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