This chapter of the book deals with data conversion and associated signal conditioning circuitry involving the use of op amps. Data conversion is a very broad topic, and this chapter will provide only enough background material for the reader to make intelligent
decisions regarding op amp selection. Much more material on the subject is available in the references (see References 1-5).
Figure 3-1 shows a generalized sampled data system and some possible applications of op amps. The analog input signal is first buffered and filtered before it is applied to the analog-to-digital converter (ADC). The buffer may or may not be required, depending upon the input structure of the ADC.
For example, some ADCs (such as switched capacitor) generate transient currents at their inputs due to the internal conversion architecture, and these currents must be isolated from the signal source. A suitable buffer amplifier provides a low impedance drive and absorbs these currents. In some cases, an op amp is required to provide the appropriate gain and offset to match the signal to the input range of the ADC.
Figure 3-1: Typical sampled data system showing potential amplifier applications
Another key component in a sampled data system is the antialiasing filter which removes signals that fall outside the Nyquist bandwidth, fs/2. Normally this filter is a low-pass filter, but it can be a band-pass filter in certain undersampling applications. If the op amp buffer is required, it may be located before or after the filter, depending on system considerations. In fact, the filter itself may be an active one, in which case the buffering function can be performed by the actual output amplifier of the filter. More discussions regarding active filters can be found in Chapter 5 of this book.
After the signal is buffered and filtered, it is applied to the ADC. The full-scale input voltage range of the ADC is generally determined by a voltage reference, VREF. Some ADCs have this function on chip, while others require an external reference. If an external reference is required, its output may require buffering using an appropriate op amp. The reference input to the ADC may be connected to an internal switched capacitor network, causing transient currents to be generated at that node (similar to the analog input of such converters). Some references may therefore require a buffer to isolate these transient currents from the actual reference output. Other references may have internal buffers that are sufficient, and no additional buffering is needed in those cases.
The output of the ADC is then processed digitally by an appropriate processor, shown in the diagram as a digital signal processor (DSP). DSPs are processors that are optimized to perform fast repetitive arithmetic, as required in digital filters or fast Fourier transform (FFT) algorithms. The DSP output then drives a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) which converts the digital signal back into an analog signal.
Buffering ADC transients from signal source
Buffering voltage reference outputs
Buffering DAC outputs
Active antialiasing filter before ADC
Active anti-imaging filter after DAC
Figure 3-2: Data converter amplifier applications
The DAC analog output must be filtered to remove the unwanted image frequencies caused by the sampling process, and further buffering may be required to provide the proper signal amplitude and offset. The output filter is generally placed between the DAC and the buffer amplifier, but their positions can be reversed in certain applications. It is also possible to combine the filtering and buffering function if an active fi lter is used to condition the DAC output.