Recently, a “very special” circuit had to be designed – a driver for a mechanical oscillator. The objective – to find the natural frequency of such oscillators, to a very high degree of precision, and at very small amplitudes, in the µm range.
Measurement of the frequency is easily done by a frequency counter – what is needed is a circuit that keeps the oscillator going at a constant amplitude.
The oscillator (a mechanical tuning fork, metal tube) carries a small magnet that can be used, together with a stationary coil, to make is oscillate and sustain the oscillation.
The movement of the tuning fork is sensed by a light gate – an IR emitter diode, and a photodiode.
The oscillator is running at a few 100 Hz, in a very well thermostated environment.