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The Inverting Operational Amplifier

We saw in the last tutorial that the Open Loop Gain, ( Avo ) of an ideal operational amplifier

can be very high, as much as 1,000,000 (120dB) or more. However, this very high gain is of no

real use to us as it makes the amplifier both unstable and hard to control as the smallest of input

signals, just a few micro-volts, (V) would be enough to cause the output voltage to saturate and

swing towards one or the other of the voltage supply rails losing complete control of the output.

As the open loop DC gain of an Operational Amplifiers is extremely high we can therefore

afford to lose some of this high gain by connecting a suitable resistor across the amplifier from

the output terminal back to the inverting input terminal to both reduce and control the overall

gain of the amplifier. This then produces and effect known commonly as Negative Feedback, and

thus produces a very stable Operational Amplifier based system.

Negative Feedback is the process of feeding back a fraction of the output signal back to the

input, but to make the feedback negative, we must feed it back to the negative or inverting

input terminal of the op-amp using an external Feedback Resistor called R. This feedback

connection between the output and the inverting input terminal forces the differential input

voltage towards zero.

This effect produces a closed loop circuit to the amplifier resulting in the gain of the amplifier

now being called its Closed-loop Gain. Then a closed-loop inverting amplifier uses negative

feedback to accurately control the overall gain of the amplifier, but at a cost in the reduction of

the amplifiers bandwidth.

This negative feedback results in the inverting input terminal having a different signal on it than

the actual input voltage as it will be the sum of the input voltage plus the negative feedback

voltage giving it the label or term of a Summing Point. We must therefore separate the real input

signal from the inverting input by using an Input Resistor, Rin.

As we are not using the positive non-inverting input this is connected to a common ground or

zero voltage terminal as shown below, but the effect of this closed loop feedback circuit results

in the voltage potential at the inverting input being equal to that at the non-inverting input

producing a Virtual Earth summing point because it will be at the same potential as the grounded

reference input. In other words, the op-amp becomes a differential amplifier.

Inverting Operational Amplifier Configuration

In this Inverting Amplifier circuit the operational amplifier is connected with feedback to

produce a closed loop operation. When dealing with operational amplifiers there are two very

important rules to remember about ideal inverting amplifiers, these are: No current flows into

the input terminal and that V1 always equals V2. However, in real world op-amp circuits both

of these rules are slightly broken.

This is because the junction of the input and feedback signal ( X ) is at the same potential as the

positive ( + ) input which is at zero volts or ground then, the junction is a Virtual Earth.

Because of this virtual earth node the input resistance of the amplifier is equal to the value of the

input resistor, Rin and the closed loop gain of the inverting amplifier can be set by the ratio of

the two external resistors.

We said above that there are two very important rules to remember about Inverting Amplifiers

or any operational amplifier for that matter and these are.

1. No Current Flows into the Input Terminals

2. The Differential Input Voltage is Zero as V1 = V2 = 0 (Virtual Earth)

Then by using these two rules we can derive the equation for calculating the closed-loop gain of

an inverting amplifier, using first principles.

Current ( i ) flows through the resistor network as shown.

Then, the Closed-Loop Voltage Gain of an Inverting Amplifier is given as.

and this can be transposed to give Vout as:

Linear Output

The negative sign in the equation indicates an inversion of the output signal with respect to the

input as it is 180

o

out of phase. This is due to the feedback being negative in value.

The equation for the output voltage Vout also shows that the circuit is linear in nature for a fixed

amplifier gain as Vout = Vin x Gain. This property can be very useful for converting a smaller

sensor signal to a much larger voltage.

Another useful application of an inverting amplifier is that of a transresistance amplifier

circuit. A Transresistance Amplifier also known as a transimpedance amplifier, is basically a

current-to-voltage converter (Current in and Voltage out). They can be used in low-power

applications to convert a very small current generated by a photo-diode or photo-detecting device

etc, into a usable output voltage which is proportional to the input current as shown.

Transresistance Amplifier Circuit

The simple light-activated circuit above, converts a current generated by the photo-diode into a

voltage. The feedback resistor R sets the operating voltage point at the inverting input and

controls the amount of output. The output voltage is given as Vout = I

s

x R. Therefore, the

output voltage is proportional to the amount of input current generated by the photo-diode.

Inverting Op-amp Example No1

Find the closed loop gain of the following inverting amplifier circuit.

Using the previously found formula for the gain of the circuit

we can now substitute the values of the resistors in the circuit as follows,

Rin = 10k and R = 100k.

and the gain of the circuit is calculated as -R/Rin = 100k/10k = -10.

therefore, the closed loop gain of the inverting amplifier circuit above is given -10 or 20dB

(20log(10)).

Inverting Op-amp Example No2

The gain of the original circuit is to be increased to 40 (32dB), find the new values of the

resistors required.

Assume that the input resistor is to remain at the same value of 10K, then by re-arranging the

closed loop voltage gain formula we can find the new value required for the feedback resistor

R.

Gain = -R/Rin

therefore, R = Gain x Rin

R = 40 x 10,000

R = 400,000 or 400K

The new values of resistors required for the circuit to have a gain of 40 would be,

Rin = 10K and R = 400K.

The formula could also be rearranged to give a new value of Rin, keeping the same value of R.

One final point to note about the Inverting Amplifier configuration for an operational amplifier,

if the two resistors are of equal value, Rin = R then the gain of the amplifier will be -1

producing a complementary form of the input voltage at its output as Vout = -Vin. This type of

inverting amplifier configuration is generally called a Unity Gain Inverter of simply an

Inverting Buffer.

In the next tutorial about Operational Amplifiers, we will analyse the complement of the

Inverting Amplifier operational amplifier circuit called the Non-inverting Amplifier that

produces an output signal which is in-phase with the input.

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