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Op Comparerers

Op Comparerers

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Published by telz

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Published by: telz on Jan 31, 2010
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Application Report 
SLOA067 – September 2001
1
Op Amp and Comparators – Don’t Confuse Them! 
Bruce Carter 
High Performance Linear 
ABSTRACT
Operational amplifiers (op amps) and comparators look similar; they even have verysimilar schematic symbols. This leads a lot of designers to think they are interchangeable.There is a strong temptation to use a spare section of a multiple op amp package as acomparator to save money. This application note will explain why designers should not dothis.
1 Introduction
The author, as an applications engineer, helps with tough customer inquiries – the ones themarketing group cannot answer. Increasingly, a new type of inquiry has been heard: how to usean op-amp open loop as a comparator.
2 Comparing the Op Amp and the Comparator
The schematic symbol for the two types of parts gives no clue about internal differences:
+-U?ALM324321411+-U?ALM339761312
 Figure 1. Op Amp and Comparator Schematic Symbols
Other than some pin number differences, both have two power supply pins, both havenoninverting (+) and inverting (-) inputs, and both have an output. Both can be drawn with therelative position of the two inputs swapped. Are they the same things? Unfortunately, even theinternal schematics of the parts give no indication of what is going on. The schematics areshown in Figure 2 and Figure 3.
 
SLOA067 
2
Op Amp and Comparators – Don’t Confuse Them! 
 Figure 2. Example of an Op Amp Schematic Figure 3. Example of a Comparator Schematic
The input stages look identical, except the inputs are labeled opposite. This will be discussedlater. The output stage of the op amp is a bit more complex, which should be a clue thatsomething is different. The output stage of the comparator is obviously different, in that it is asingle-open collector. But be careful, many newer comparators have bipolar stages that are verysimilar in appearance to op-amp output stages.
 
SLOA067 
Op Amp and Comparators – Don’t Confuse Them! 
3
So, if very little appears to be different in the schematic symbol or the internal workings, what isthe difference?The difference is in the output stage. An op amp has an output stage that is optimized for linearoperation, while the output stage of a comparator is optimized for saturated operation.
3 The Comparator
A comparator is a 1-bit analog-to-digital converter. It has a differential analog input and a digitaloutput. Very few designers make the mistake of using a comparator as an op amp, becausemost comparators have an open collector output. The output transistor of open collectorcomparators is characterized by low V
CE
for switching heavy loads. The open collector structuredepends on external circuitry to make the connection to power and complete the circuit. Somecomparators also bring out the emitter pin as well, relying on the designer to complete the circuitby making both collector and emitter connections. Other comparators substitute a FET, havingopen drain outputs instead of open collector. In all of these classes of devices, the emphasis ison driving heavy loads.
3.1 The Comparator Output Designed for Digital Operation
Originally it was thought that comparators would drive relays. Later, in the application of thesedevices, it was discovered that the open collector / drain output was useful for creating a hard-wired NAND gate. Individual outputs of separate IC’s, even widely separated on a PC board, canbe directly hooked together to form a large NAND gate. See Figure 4.
IC2IC3IC4POWERIC1SINGLEOUTPUT
 Figure 4. Open Collector NAND Gate
In normal operation, the output transistors of each individual IC are turned off, creating highimpedance. The single pullup resistor for all of the collectors (usually a few hundred to a fewthousand ohms) acts as the high leg of a voltage divider, and the single output is thereforepulled high to the power supply. If any individual output transistor is turned on, it then createslow impedance, and the single output will go low. When this technique is used, it is not possibleto determine the exact output that went low. This technique is employed when it does not matterwhich output goes low, only that one of them went low corresponding to a fault condition of somesort.

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