I've been experimenting with oscillators, and am particularly fond of a very low-current MOSFET design that uses ceramic capacitors and oscillates at about 1 to 10 Hz. However, I am having trouble adjusting its frequency and duty cycle.
The resistors involved are the largest I've got, so to slow it down a little I decided to use larger capacitors, like a 1μF electrolytic instead of 0.01μF ceramic. Instead of slowing it down by a factor of 100, it just had some weird smoothing effect on the square wave, depending on which side was connected to the load. In fact, 100μF and 1000μF had the same frequency, just more smoothing.
I figured I just had the capacitor in backwards, and flipped it around, but this often made no difference, and it never made the frequency "correct". Also, even with 100μF on one side and 0.01μF on the other, the duty cycle was as close to 50% as I could measure.
I used a multi-meter to check which way the capacitor should really go, and was shocked to find it was always backwards. Eventually I discovered that the voltage was swinging from -130mV to +130mV, and if the capacitors weren't balanced or the phase of the moon was wrong, it would sort of get stuck on one side, and the other capacitor would handle all the oscillating.
Through many hours of simulating oscillators in spice and the falstad.com simulator, I have found that some of my oscillators maintain 0 to +V across the capacitors over the entire wave, but some configurations are more like -0.5V to 3V across the capacitors. I have no idea what controls this.
How does one design an astable multi-vibrator to have a specified voltage range across the capacitors? (Ideally, given a fixed frequency and duty cycle, and maintaining low current.)
If it matters, I substituted ON 2N7000's for the depletion mosfets, and this works with ceramic capacitors, just not polarized capacitors.