Adabot: Sandstone, obsidian, pyrite …

Minerva: Hey Adabot - what you up to?

Adabot: Oh - I was just going through my rock collection. I forgot I had so many!

Minerva: Hmm - find anything good?

Adabot: Sure - some precious stones. This one’s my favorite - it’s quartz!

Minerva: That quartz does look special. Where did you get it?

Adabot: There was a rock show at the museum. I thought there would be more guitar solos, but it turned out to be a bunch of people trading minerals. So, I got this quartz because it looks really neat.

Minerva: It looks neat because it is neat. We use quartz in electronics all the time.

Hans: Did someone say time?!

Minerva: Why, yes! I was just explaining to Adabot how quartz is used in electronics.

Hans: Adabot - do yo know why I am the world’s greatest integrated circuit?

Adabot: No, Hans - why are you the world’s greatest int –

Hans: Timing! It’s what I take care of in a circuit. And do you know why my timing is so impeccable?

Adabot: No - why is your timing so imp–

Hans: Quartz! And why does quartz create perfect timing?

Adabot: Umm - are you gonna keep interrupting me?

Minerva: Oh - settle down, Hans. I can explain why quartz is so important for timing.

Adabot: Why, thank you.

Minerva: You see - certain materials, such as quartz crystals, are Piezoelectric. Simply put - this means if you apply a small amount of mechanical force to a piece of quartz, it will generate a small electrical voltage.

Adabot: Wow - that sounds pretty unusual! So if i crushed it, it would shock me?

Minerva: Well, you have to squeeze it very lightly, and just right and the electrical voltage is very, very small. But...yes I suppose you’re right!

Hans: And the opposite is also true! If you apply voltage to a piece of quartz - it will respond with a precise mechanical vibration.

Adabot: Quartz sounds like magic!

Minerva: It’s not magic, Adabot - it’s science! Take a look inside this quartz watch for instance.

Hans: this little integrated circuit here passes electrical current to the quartz crystal. Then the quartz vibrates at precisely 32768 times per second.

Minerva: After that, the IC detects the vibrations, counts them one by one, and when it gets all 32,768 it knows one second has passed!

Adabot: So there’s a quartz crystal inside of that little metal container?

Hans: Yes - and it looks something like this …

Adabot: That looks like a tuning fork!

Minerva: That’s true - it does look like a tuning fork!

Adabot: Musicians use the vibrations of a tuning fork to tune their instrument - and circuits use quartz to tune their timing!

Hans: You’re right!

Minerva: Very true, Adabot. Quartz is an important reference for the timing of so many circuits - microcontrollers, computers, and more.

Adabot: I always wondered what was inside those little metal cans - now I finally know!

Minerva: Well - it’s about time!

Hans: … Adabot, I believe Minerva just made a *time* joke

Adabot: Is that what that was?

Hans: Haaayyooo!

Minerva: Thank you, thank you …

This guide was first published on Mar 19, 2019. It was last updated on Mar 19, 2019. This page (Transcript) was last updated on May 14, 2019.