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Analog multipliers

An analog multiplier is a circuit with an output that is proportional to the product of two inputs:

where K is a constant value whose dimension is the inverse of a voltage. In general we might
expect that the two inputs can be both positive or negative, and so can be the output. Anyway,
most of the implementations work only if both inputs are strictly positive: this is not such a limit
because we can shift the input and the output in order to have a core working only with positive
signals but external interfaces working with any polarity (within certain limits according to the
particular configuration).
Two possible implementations will be shown. Both will be using operational amplifiers, but the
first one will use diodes to get the needed relationships, the second one MOSFET transistors.

[edit] Diode Implementations


As known, using operational amplifiers and diodes it's quite easy to obtain the logarithm and the
exponential of a certain input. Remembering the property of logarithms:

we can multiply two signals first calculating their logarithm, then summing them and finally
calculating the exponential of such a sum. From the point of view of mathematics, such an
approach works as long as the two inputs are positive, because the logarithm of a negative
number does not exist (in the real domain). We'll see that this limit is valid for the actual circuit
as well, even if the reason will be more "physical". The block diagram of this implementation is
the following:

If we simply append the circuits for logarithm, sum and exponential we get the following
configuration:

for a quick overview on the behavior of the circuit, we'll assume that all the resistors R have the
same value. It is obviously possible to use different values to get different results, but we will not
consider it here. Let us use the following notation for the relationship between current and
voltage on a diode:

where
is the threshold voltage and Is is the current flowing through the diode if it's
inverse-polarized. If we analyze the circuit without introducing any approximation we get:

so the final output is:

as it is clear, in the output there is the multiplication we were looking for, but there is another
term we don't want. It can't be simply considered an error because it might be as great as the
multiplication element, so it has to be removed. Anyway this is an easy task, since it is necessary
only to add another stage to sum exactly
, so we will have no error. The complete
multiplier circuit is the following:

where the output voltage is given by:

that's exactly what we wanted. The circuit works as long as the following relationship is verified:

so the inputs can be zero or sightly negative but, since


will be a small voltage, we are
allowed to rewrite the relation simply as
. From the mathematical point of view this
is due to the fact that we can't calculate the logarithm of a negative number, from a physical point
of view the limit is due to the fact that we can obtain only very small currents (almost zero)
inverse-polarizing the diodes.
In practical applications, the diodes are replaced with BJTs connected so to work like a diode.

[edit] MOS implementation

Since it is possible to use a MOSFET transistor as a voltage controlled resistor, we can use this
feature to create an analog multiplier. Let us refer to picture on the right. With the letter we
indicate the different pins: Drain, Source and Gate. MOS are symmetrical devices, so we could
replace the drain with the source without affecting the behavior of the device. Anyway we'll call
source the lowest voltage pin and drain the point with the highest voltage. When the voltage
between gate and source is less than the voltage between drain and source, i.e.
, the
relationship between current and voltage is the following:

assuming we can always use this relationship, the analog multiplier configuration is the
following:

where source and drain of both devices are pointed out. If and
are positive, then the
sources will remain there because that points are virtually connected to ground by the operational
amplifiers. The current flowing through
is defined: one side of the resistor has the voltage ,
the other one is grounded. That same current will flow through the MOS
, thus defining the
voltage
. The current is given by:

but

and

. replacing and calculating we get:

considering the other MOS

where

and

we have:

. Replacing we get:

from which we finally get the output voltage:

and this is what we wanted. The difference between the previous configurations are:

the MOS implementation is simpler and requires fewer devices


in the calculations for the diode configuration we did not introduce any approximation,
while the MOS configuration we did.

In other words, the diode implementation is more complicated but it works fine for a wider range
on inputs.