martes, 16 de marzo de 2010

Operational Amplifier

An operational amplifier, which is often called an op-amp, is a DC-coupled high-gain electronic voltage amplifier with a differential input and, usually, a single-ended output. An op-amp produces an output voltage that is typically millions of times larger than the voltage difference between its input terminals.
Typically the op-amp's very large gain is controlled by negative feedback, which largely determines the magnitude of its output ("closed-loop") voltage gain in amplifier applications, or the transfer function required (in analog computers). Without negative feedback, and perhaps with positive feedback for regeneration, an op-amp essentially acts as a comparator. High input impedance at the input terminals (ideally infinite) and low output impedance at the output terminal(s) (ideally zero) are important typical characteristics.
Op-amps are among the most widely used electronic devices today, being used in a vast array of consumer, industrial, and scientific devices. Many standard IC op-amps cost only a few cents in moderate production volume; however some integrated or hybrid operational amplifiers with special performance specifications may cost over $100 US in small quantities. Op-amps sometimes come in the form of macroscopic components, (see photo) or as integrated circuit cells; patterns that can be reprinted several times on one chip as part of a more complex device.
The op-amp is one type of differential amplifier. Other types of differential amplifier include the fully differential amplifier (similar to the op-amp, but with two outputs), the instrumentation amplifier (usually built from three op-amps), the isolation amplifier (similar to the instrumentation amplifier, but which works fine with common-mode voltages that would destroy an ordinary op-amp), and negative feedback amplifier (usually built from one or more op-amps and a resistive feedback network).


  • 1941: First (vacuum tube) op-amp

An op-amp, defined as a general-purpose, DC-coupled, high gain, inverting feedback amplifier, is first found in US Patent 2,401,779 "Summing Amplifier" filed by Karl D. Swartzel Jr. of Bell labs in 1941. This design used three vacuum tubes to achieve a gain of 90dB and operated on voltage rails of ±350V. It had a single inverting input rather than differential inverting and non-inverting inputs, as are common in today's op-amps. Throughout World War II, Swartzel's design proved its value by being liberally used in the M9 artillery director designed at Bell Labs. This artillery director worked with the SCR584 radar system to achieve extraordinary hit rates (near 90%) that would not have been possible otherwise.

  • 1947: First op-amp with an explicit non-inverting input
In 1947, the operational amplifier was first formally defined and named in a paper by Professor John R. Ragazzini of Columbia University. In this same paper a footnote mentioned an op-amp design by a student that would turn out to be quite significant. This op-amp, designed by Loebe Julie, was superior in a variety of ways. It had two major innovations. Its input stage used a long-tailed triode pair with loads matched to reduce drift in the output and, far more importantly, it was the first op-amp design to have two inputs (one inverting, the other non-inverting). The differential input made a whole range of new functionality possible, but it would not be used for a long time due to the rise of the chopper-stabilized amplifier.
  • 1949: First chopper-stabilized op-amp
In 1949, Edwin A. Goldberg designed a chopper-stabilized op-amp. This set-up uses a normal op-amp with an additional AC amplifier that goes alongside the op-amp. The chopper gets an AC signal from DC by switching between the DC voltage and ground at a fast rate (60 Hz or 400 Hz). This signal is then amplified, rectified, filtered and fed into the op-amp's non-inverting input. This vastly improved the gain of the op-amp while significantly reducing the output drift and DC offset. Unfortunately, any design that used a chopper couldn't use their non-inverting input for any other purpose. Nevertheless, the much improved characteristics of the chopper-stabilized op-amp made it the dominant way to use op-amps. Techniques that used the non-inverting input regularly would not be very popular until the 1960s when op-amp ICs started to show up in the field.
In 1953, vacuum tube op-amps became commercially available with the release of the model K2-W from George A. Philbrick Researches, Incorporated. The designation on the devices shown, GAP/R, is a contraction for the complete company name. Two nine-pin 12AX7 vacuum tubes were mounted in an octal package and had a model K2-P chopper add-on available that would effectively "use up" the non-inverting input. This op-amp was based on a descendant of Loebe Julie's 1947 design and, along with its successors, would start the widespread use of op-amps in industry.

  • 1961: First discrete IC op-amps

With the birth of the transistor in 1947, and the silicon transistor in 1954, the concept of ICs became a reality. The introduction of the planar process in 1959 made transistors and ICs stable enough to be commercially useful. By 1961, solid-state, discrete op-amps were being produced. These op-amps were effectively small circuit boards with packages such as edge-connectors. They usually had hand-selected resistors in order to improve things such as voltage offset and drift. The P45 (1961) had a gain of 94 dB and ran on ±15 V rails. It was intended to deal with signals in the range of ±10 V.
  • 1962: First op-amps in potted modules

By 1962, several companies were producing modular potted packages that could be plugged into printed circuit boards. These packages were crucially important as they made the operational amplifier into a single black box which could be easily treated as a component in a larger circuit.
  • 1963: First monolithic IC op-amp
In 1963, the first monolithic IC op-amp, the μA702 designed by Bob Widlar at Fairchild Semiconductor, was released. Monolithic ICs consist of a single chip as opposed to a chip and discrete parts (a discrete IC) or multiple chips bonded and connected on a circuit board (a hybrid IC). Almost all modern op-amps are monolithic ICs; however, this first IC did not meet with much success. Issues such as an uneven supply voltage, low gain and a small dynamic range held off the dominance of monolithic op-amps until 1965 when the μA709 (also designed by Bob Widlar) was released.

  • 1968: Release of the μA741 - would be seen as a nearly ubiquitous chip
The popularity of monolithic op-amps was further improved upon the release of the LM101 in 1967, which solved a variety of issues, and the subsequent release of the μA741 in 1968. The μA741 was extremely similar to the LM101 except that Fairchild's facilities allowed them to include a 30 pF compensation capacitor inside the chip instead of requiring external compensation. This simple difference has made the 741 the canonical op-amp and many modern amps base their pinout on the 741s.The μA741 is still in production, and has become ubiquitous in electronics-many manufacturers produce a version of this classic chip, recognizable by part numbers containing 741.

  • 1966: First varactor bridge op-amps
Since the 741, there have been many different directions taken in op-amp design. Varactor bridge op-amps started to be produced in the late 1960s; they were designed to have extremely small input current and are still amongst the best op-amps available in terms of common-mode rejection with the ability to correctly deal with hundreds of volts at their inputs.

  • 1970: First high-speed, low-input current FET design
In the 1970s high speed, low-input current designs started to be made by using FETs. These would be largely replaced by op-amps made with MOSFETs in the 1980s. During the 1970s single sided supply op-amps also became available.

  • 1972: Single sided supply op-amps being produced
A single sided supply op-amp is one where the input and output voltages can be as low as the negative power supply voltage instead of needing to be at least two volts above it. The result is that it can operate in many applications with the negative supply pin on the op-amp being connected to the signal ground, thus eliminating the need for a separate negative power supply.
The LM324 (released in 1972) was one such op-amp that came in a quad package (four separate op-amps in one package) and became an industry standard. In addition to packaging multiple op-amps in a single package, the 1970s also saw the birth of op-amps in hybrid packages. These op-amps were generally improved versions of existing monolithic op-amps. As the properties of monolithic op-amps improved, the more complex hybrid ICs were quickly relegated to systems that are required to have extremely long service lives or other specialty systems.

Recent trends

Recently supply voltages in analog circuits have decreased (as they have in digital logic) and low-voltage opamps have been introduced reflecting this. Supplies of ±5V and increasingly 5V are common. To maximize the signal range modern op-amps commonly have rail-to-rail inputs (the input signals can range from the lowest supply voltage to the highest) and sometimes rail-to-rail outputs.


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