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Kennedy, E.J., Wait, J.V.

Operational Amplifiers
The Electrical Engineering Handbook
Ed. Richard C. Dorf
Boca Raton: CRC Press LLC, 2000

Operational Amplifiers
E.J. Kennedy
University of Tennessee

27.1 Ideal and Practical Models

John V. Wait

27.2 Applications

University of Arizona (Retired)


The Ideal Op Amp Practical Op Amps SPICE Computer Models

Noninverting Circuits

Ideal and Practical Models

E .J. Kennedy
The concept of the operational amplifier (usually referred to as an op amp) originated at the beginning of the
Second World War with the use of vacuum tubes in dc amplifier designs developed by the George A. Philbrick
Co. [some of the early history of operational amplifiers is found in Williams, 1991]. The op amp was the basic
building block for early electronic servomechanisms, for synthesizers, and in particular for analog computers
used to solve differential equations. With the advent of the first monolithic integrated-circuit (IC) op amp in
1965 (the mA709, designed by the late Bob Widlar, then with Fairchild Semiconductor), the availability of op
amps was no longer a factor, while within a few years the cost of these devices (which had been as high as $200
each) rapidly plummeted to close to that of individual discrete transistors.
Although the digital computer has now largely supplanted the analog computer in mathematically intensive
applications, the use of inexpensive operational amplifiers in instrumentation applications, in pulse shaping,
in filtering, and in signal processing applications in general has continued to grow. There are currently many
commercial manufacturers whose main products are high-quality op amps. This competitiveness has ensured
a marketplace featuring a wide range of relatively inexpensive devices suitable for use by electronic engineers,
physicists, chemists, biologists, and almost any discipline that requires obtaining quantitative analog data from
instrumented experiments.
Most operational amplifier circuits can be analyzed, at least for first-order calculations, by considering the
op amp to be an ideal device. For more quantitative information, however, and particularly when frequency
response and dc offsets are important, one must refer to a more practical model that includes the internal
limitations of the device. If the op amp is characterized by a really complete model, the resulting circuit may
be quite complex, leading to rather laborious calculations. Fortunately, however, computer analysis using the
program SPICE significantly reduces the problem to one of a simple input specification to the computer. Today,
nearly all the op amp manufacturers provide SPICE models for their line of devices, with excellent correlation
obtained between the computer simulation and the actual measured results.

The Ideal Op Amp

An ideal operational amplifier is a dc-coupled amplifier having two inputs and normally one output (although
in a few infrequent cases there may be a differential output). The inputs are designated as noninverting
(designated + or NI) and inverting (designated or Inv.). The amplified signal is the differential signal, ve,
between the two inputs, so that the output voltage as indicated in Fig. 27.1 is

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FIGURE 27.1 Configuration for an ideal op amp.

v out = AOL (v B - v A )


The general characteristics of an ideal op amp can be summarized as follows:

1. The open-loop gain AOL is infinite. Or, since the output signal vout is finite, then the differential input
signal ve must approach zero.
2. The input resistance RIN is infinite, while the output resistance RO is zero.
3. The amplifier has zero current at the input (iA and iB in Fig. 27.1 are zero), but the op amp can either
sink or source an infinite current at the output.
4. The op amp is not sensitive to a common signal on both inputs (i.e., vA = vB); thus, the output voltage
change due to a common input signal will be zero. This common signal is referred to as a commonmode signal, and manufacturers specify this effect by an op amps common-mode rejection ratio (CMRR),
which relates the ratio of the open-loop gain (AOL) of the op amp to the common-mode gain (ACM).
Hence, for an ideal op amp CMRR = .
5. A somewhat analogous specification to the CMRR is the power-supply rejection ratio (PSRR), which
relates the ratio of a power supply voltage change to an equivalent input voltage change produced by
the change in the power supply. Because an ideal op amp can operate with any power supply, without
restriction, then for the ideal device PSRR = .
6. The gain of the op amp is not a function of frequency. This implies an infinite bandwidth.
Although the foregoing requirements for an ideal op amp appear to be impossible to achieve practically,
modern devices can quite closely approximate many of these conditions. An op amp with a field-effect transistor
(FET) on the input would certainly not have zero input current and infinite input resistance, but a current of
<10 pA and an RIN = 1012 W is obtainable and is a reasonable approximation to the ideal conditions. Further,
although a CMRR and PSRR of infinity are not possible, there are several commercial op amps available with
values of 140 dB (i.e., a ratio of 107). Open-loop gains of several precision op amps now have reached values
of >107, although certainly not infinity. The two most difficult ideal conditions to approach are the ability to
handle large output currents and the requirement of a gain independence with frequency.
Using the ideal model conditions it is quite simple to evaluate the two basic op amp circuit configurations,
(1) the inverting amplifier and (2) the noninverting amplifier, as designated in Fig. 27.2.
For the ideal inverting amplifier, since the open-loop gain is infinite and since the output voltage vo is finite,
then the input differential voltage (often referred to as the error signal) ve must approach zero, or the input
current is

iI =

vI - v e
v -0
= I


The feedback current iF must equal iI , and the output voltage must then be due to the voltage drop across RF , or

v o = -i F R F + v e = -i I R F = - F v I
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FIGURE 27.2 Illustration of (a) the inverting amplifier and (b) the noninverting amplifier. (Source: E.J. Kennedy, Operational Amplifier Circuits, Theory and Applications, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1988, pp. 4, 6. With permission.)

The inverting connection thus has a voltage gain vo /vI of RF /R1 , an input resistance seen by vI of R1 ohms
[from Eq. (27.2)], and an output resistance of 0 W. By a similar analysis for the noninverting circuit of
Fig. 27.2(b), since ve is zero, then signal vI must appear across resistor R1, producing a current of vI /R1, which
must flow through resistor RF . Hence the output voltage is the sum of the voltage drops across RF and R1, or

v o = R F I + v I = 1 + F v I



As opposed to the inverting connection, the input resistance seen by the source vI is now equal to an infinite
resistance, since RIN for the ideal op amp is infinite.

Practical Op Amps
A nonideal op amp is characterized not only by finite open-loop gain, input and output resistance, finite
currents, and frequency bandwidths, but also by various nonidealities due to the construction of the op amp
circuit or external connections. A complete model for a practical op amp is illustrated in Fig. 27.3. The nonideal
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FIGURE 27.3 A model for a practical op amp illustrating nonideal effects. (Source: E.J. Kennedy, Operational Amplifier
Circuits, Theory and Applications, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1988, pp. 53, 126. With permission.)

effects of the PSRR and CMRR are represented by the input series voltage sources of DVsupply /PSRR and

VC M /CMRR, where DVsupply would be any total change of the two power supply voltages, Vdc+ and Vdc
, from
their nominal values, while VCM is the voltage common to both inputs of the op amp. The open-loop gain of
the op amp is no longer infinite but is modeled by a network of the output impedance Zout (which may be
merely a resistor but could also be a series R-L network) in series with a source A(s), which includes all the
open-loop poles and zeroes of the op amp as

A(s ) =

AOL 1 +
(1 + )
w Z 1

1 + w 1 + w (1 + )


where AOL is the finite dc open-loop gain, while poles are at frequencies wp1, wp 2 , . . . and zeroes are at w Z 1,
etc. The differential input resistance is ZIN , which is typically a resistance RIN in parallel with a capacitor CIN.
Similarly, the common-mode input impedance ZCM is established by placing an impedance 2ZCM in parallel
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with each input terminal. Normally, ZCM is best represented by a parallel resistance and capacitance of 2RCM
(which is >> RIN ) and CC M /2. The dc bias currents at the input are represented by IB+ and I B current sources
that would equal the input base currents if a differential bipolar transistor were used as the input stage of the
op amp, or the input gate currents if FETs were used. The fact that the two transistors of the input stage of the
op amp may not be perfectly balanced is represented by an equivalent input offset voltage source, VOS , in series
with the input.
The smallest signal that can be amplified is always limited by the inherent random noise internal to the op
amp itself. In Fig. 27.3 the noise effects are represented by an equivalent input voltage source (ENV), which
when multiplied by the gain of the op amp would equal the total output noise present if the inputs to the op
amp were shorted. In a similar fashion, if the inputs to the op amp were open circuited, the total output noise
would equal the sum of the noise due to the equivalent input current sources (ENI+ and ENI), each multiplied
by their respective current gain to the output. Because noise is a random variable, this summation must be
accomplished in a squared fashion, i.e.,

EO2 rms volt 2/Hz = ( ENV )2 A v2 + ( ENI + )2 A I21 + ( ENI - )2 A122


Typically, the correlation (C) between the ENV and ENI sources is low, so the assumption of C 0 can be made.
For the basic circuits of Fig. 27.2(a) or (b), if the signal source vI is shorted then the output voltage due to
the nonideal effects would be (using the model of Fig. 27.3)


v o = VOS +
1 +
+ I B RF



provided that the loop gain (also called loop transmission in many texts) is related by the inequality

A(s ) >> 1

R1 + R F


Inherent in Eq. (27.8) is the usual condition that R1 << ZIN and ZCM . If a resistor R2 were in series with the
noninverting input terminal, then a corresponding term must be added to the right hand side of Eq. (27.7) of
value I B+ R2 (R1 + RF )/R1. On manufacturers data sheets the individual values of I B+ and I B are not stated;
instead the average input bias current and offset current are specified as

IB =

I B+ + I B;

I offset = * I B+ - I B- *


The output noise effects can be obtained using the model of Fig. 27.3 along with the circuits of Fig. 27.2 as

E out

volts /Hz) =

E12 F

+ E F + (ENV + E 2 )

- 2 2
+ 2 2

+ (ENI ) R F + (ENI ) R2 1 +
1 +


where it is assumed that a resistor R2 is also in series with the noninverting input of either Fig. 27.2(a) or (b).
The thermal noise (often called Johnson or Nyquist noise) due to the resistors R1 , R2 , and RF is given by (in
rms volt2 /Hz)
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E12 = 4kT R1
E 22 = 4kT R2
E 2F


= 4kT R F

where k is Boltzmanns constant and T is absolute temperature (Kelvin). To obtain the total output noise, one
expression of Eq. (27.10) by the noise bandwidth of the circuit, which typically is equal
must multiply the Eout
to p/2 times the 3 dB signal bandwidth, for a single-pole response system [Kennedy, 1988].

SPICE Computer Models

The use of op amps can be considerably simplified by computer-aided analysis using the program SPICE. SPICE
originated with the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975 [Nagel, 1975], although more recent user-friendly
commercial versions are now available such as HSPICE, HPSPICE, IS-SPICE, PSPICE, and ZSPICE, to mention
a few of those most widely used. A simple macromodel for a near-ideal op amp could be simply stated with
the SPICE subcircuit file (* indicates a comment that is not processed by the file)

*A near-ideal op amp: (1) is noninv, (2) is inv, and (3) is output.
RIN 1 2 1E12
E1 (3, 0) (1, 2) 1E8


The circuit model for IDEALOA would appear as in Fig. 27.4(a). A more complete model, but not including
nonideal offset effects, could be constructed for the 741 op amp as the subcircuit file OA741, shown in
Fig. 27.4(b).

.SUBCKT OA741 1 2 6
*A linear model for the 741 op amp: (1) is noninv, (2) is inv, and
*(6) is output. RIN = 2MEG, AOL = 200,000, ROUT = 75 ohm,
*Dominant open - loop pole at 5 Hz, gain - bandwidth product
*is 1 MHz.
RIN 1 2 2MEG
E1 (3, 0) (1, 2) 2E5
R1 3 4 100K
C1 4 0 0.318UF ; R1 2 C1 = 5HZPOLE
E2 (5, 0) (4, 0) 1.0
ROUT 5 6 75


The most widely used op amp macromodel that includes dc offset effects is the Boyle model [Boyle et al.,
1974]. Most op amp manufacturers use this model, usually with additions to add more poles (and perhaps
zeroes). The various resistor and capacitor values, as well as transistor, and current and voltage generator, values
are intimately related to the specifications of the op amp, as shown earlier in the nonideal model of Fig. 27.3.
The appropriate equations are too involved to list here; instead, the interested reader is referred to the article
by Boyle in the listed references. The Boyle model does not accurately model noise effects, nor does it fully
model PSRR and CMRR effects.
A more circuits-oriented approach to modeling op amps can be obtained if the input transistors are removed
and a model formed by using passive components along with both fixed and dependent voltage and current
sources. Such a model is shown in Fig. 27.5. This model not only includes all the basic nonideal effects of the
op amp, allowing for multiple poles and zeroes, but can also accurately include ENV and ENI noise effects.

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FIGURE 27.4 Some simple SPICE macromodels. (a) A near ideal op amp. (b) A linear model for a 741 op amp. (c) The
Boyle macromodel.

The circuits-approach macromodel can also be easily adapted to current-feedback op amp designs, whose input
impedance at the noninverting input is much greater than that at the inverting input [see Williams, 1991]. The
interested reader is referred to the text edited by J. Williams, listed in the references, as well as the SPICE
modeling book by Connelly and Choi [1992].

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G0 = I/R02







D4 R01









FIGURE 27.5 A SPICE circuits-approach macromodel.

A comparison of the SPICE macromodels with actual manufacturers data for the case of an LM318 op amp
is demonstrated in Fig. 27.6, for the open-loop gain versus frequency specification.

Defining Terms
Boyle macromodel: A SPICE computer model for an op amp. Developed by G.R. Boyle in 1974.
Equivalent noise current (ENI): A noise current source that is effectively in parallel with either the noninverting input terminal (ENI+) or the inverting input terminal (ENI) and represents the total noise
contributed by the op amp if either input terminal is open circuited.
Equivalent noise voltage (ENV): A noise voltage source that is effectively in series with either the inverting
or noninverting input terminal of the op amp and represents the total noise contributed by the op amp
if the inputs were shorted.
Ideal operational amplifier: An op amp having infinite gain from input to output, with infinite input
resistance and zero output resistance and insensitive to the frequency of the signal. An ideal op amp is
useful in first-order analysis of circuits.
Operational amplifier (op amp): A dc amplifier having both an inverting and noninverting input and
normally one output, with a very large gain from input to output.
SPICE: A computer simulation program developed by the University of California, Berkeley, in 1975. Versions
are available from several companies. The program is particularly advantageous for electronic circuit
analysis, since dc, ac, transient, noise, and statistical analysis is possible.

Related Topic
13.1 Analog Circuit Simulation
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FIGURE 27.6 Comparison between manufacturers data and the SPICE macromodels.

G.R. Boyle et al., Macromodeling of integrated circuit operational amplifiers, IEEE J. S. S. Circuits,
pp. 353363, 1974.
J.A. Connelly and P. Choi, Macromodeling with SPICE, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1992.
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E.J. Kennedy, Operational Amplifier Circuits, Theory and Applications, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
L.W. Nagel, SPICE 2: A Computer Program to Simulate Semiconductor Circuits, ERL-M520, University of California, Berkeley, 1975.
J. Williams (ed.), Analog Circuit Design, Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1991.



John V. Wait
In microminiature form (epoxy or metal packages or as part of a VLSI mask layout) the operational amplifier
(op amp) is usually fabricated in integrated circuit (IC) form. The general environment is shown in Fig. 27.7.
A pair of + and regulated power supplies (or batteries) may supply all of the op amp in a system, typically
with 10 15 V. The ground and power supply buses are usually assumed, and an individual op-amp symbol
is shown in Fig. 27.8. Such amplifiers feature:

A high voltage gain, down to and including dc, and a dc open loop gain of perhaps 105 (100 dB) or more
An inverting () and noninverting (+) symbol
Minimized dc offsets, a high input impedance, and a low output impedance
An output stage able to deliver or absorb currents over a dynamic range approaching the power supply

It is important never to use the op amp without feedback between the output and inverting terminals at all
frequencies. A simple inverting amplifier is shown in Fig. 27.9. Here the voltage gain is

Vout /Vin = K = R F /R 1
The circuit gain is determined essentially by the external resistances, within the bandwidth and output-driving
capabilities of the op amp (more later). If RF = R1 = R, we have the simple unity gain inverter of Fig. 27.10.
Figure 27.11 shows a more flexible summer-inverter circuit with

v 0 = (K 1v 1 + K 2 v 2 + . . . + K n v n )
where Ki = RF /R i .

FIGURE 27.7 Typical operational amplifier environment.

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FIGURE 27.8 Conventional operational amplifier

symbol. Only active signal lines are shown, and all signals are referenced to ground.


Simple resistive inverter-amplifier.

FIGURE 27.10

A simple unity gain inverter, showing (a) detailed circuit; (b) block-diagram symbol.

FIGURE 27.11

The summer-inverter circuit, showing (a) complete circuit; (b) block-diagram symbol.

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FIGURE 27.12 Simple summer-inverter.

FIGURE 27.13

Noninverting amplifier circuit with resistive elements. (a) General circuit; (b) simple unity gain follower.

The summer-inverter is generally useful for precisely combining or mixing signals, e.g., summing and
inverting. The signal levels must be appropriately limited but may generally be bipolar (+/).
The resistance values should be in a proper range since (a) too low resistance values draw excessive current
from the signal source, and (b) too high resistance values make the circuit performance too sensitive to stray
capacitances and dc offset effects.
Typical values are from 1 MW and 10 kW. The circuit of Fig. 27.12 shows a circuit to implement

v 0 = 4v 1 2v 2
Noninverting Circuits
Figure 27.13(a) shows the useful noninverting amplifier circuit. It has a voltage gain

V0 /V 1 = (R 2 + R 1)/R 1
= 1 + (R 2/R 1)
Figure 27.13(b) shows the important unity gain follower circuit, which has a very high input impedance, which
lightly loads the signal source but which can provide a reasonable amount of output current milliamps.
It is fairly easy to show that the inverting first-order low-pass filter of Fig. 27.14 has a dc gain or R2 /R1 and
a 3-dB frequency = 1/(2pR2 C).
Figure 27.15 shows a two-amplifier differentiator and high-pass filter circuit with a resistive input impedance
and a low-frequency cutoff determined by R1 and C.
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FIGURE 27.14 First-order low-pass filter circuit.

FIGURE 27.15 A two-amplifier high-pass circuit.

Op amps provide good differential amplifier circuits. Figure 27.16 is a single amplifier circuit with a differential gain

A d = R 0 /R 1
Good resistance matching is required to have good common-mode rejection of unwanted common-mode
signals (static, 60-Hz hum, etc.). The one-amplifier circuit of Fig. 27.16 has a differential input impedance of
2R1. R1 may be chosen to provide a good load for a microphone, phono-pickup, etc.
The improved three-amplifier instrumentation amplifier circuit of Fig. 27.17, which several manufacturers
provide in a single module, provides

Very high voltage gain

Good common-mode rejection
A differential gain
High input impedance

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FIGURE 27.16 Single-output differential-input amplifier circuit.

FIGURE 27.17 A three-amplifier differential-input instrumentation amplifier featuring high input impedance and easily
adjustable gain.

Ad = -


1 +
(V2 - V1 )

Operational amplifier circuits form the heart of many precision circuits, e.g., regulated power supplies,
precision comparators, peak-detection circuits, and waveform generators [Wait et al., 1992]. Another important
area of application is active RC filters [Huelsman and Allen, 1980]. Microminiature electronic circuits seldom
use inductors. Through the use of op amps, resistors, and capacitors, one can implement precise filter circuits
(low-pass, high-pass, and bandpass). Figures 27.18 and 27.19 show second-order low-pass and bandpass filter
circuits that feature relatively low sensitivity of filter performance to component values. Details are provided
in Wait et al. [1992] and Huelsman and Allen [1980].

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FIGURE 27.18 Sallen and Key low-pass filter.

FIGURE 27.19 State-variable filter.

Of course, the op amp does not have infinite bandwidth and gain. An important op-amp parameter is the
unity-gain frequency, fu. For example, it is fairly easy to show the actual bandwidth of a constant gain amplifier
of nominal gain G is approximately

f 3 dB = f u /G
Thus, an op amp with fu = 1 MHz will provide an amplifier gain of 20 up to about 50 kHz.

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When a circuit designer needs to accurately explore the performance of an op-amp circuit design, modern circuit
simulation programs (SPICE, PSPICE, and MICRO-CAP) permit a thorough study of circuit design, as related to
op-amp performance parameters. We have not here treated nonlinear op-amp performance limitations such as slew
rate, full-power bandwidth, and rated output. Surely, the op-amp circuit designer must be careful not to exceed the
output rating of the op amp, as related to maximum output voltage and current and output rate-of-change.
Nevertheless, op-amp circuits provide the circuit designer with a handy and straightforward way to complete
electronic system designs with the use of only a few basic circuit components plus, of course, the operational

Defining Terms
Active RC filter: An electronic circuit made up of resistors, capacitors, and operational amplifiers that provide
well-controlled linear frequency-dependent functions, e.g., low-, high-, and bandpass filters.
Analog-to-digital converter (ADC): An electronic circuit that receives a magnitude-scaled analog voltage and
generates a binary-coded number proportional to the analog input, which is delivered to an interface
subsystem to a digital computer.
Digital-to-analog converter (DAC): An electronic circuit that receives an n-bit digital word from an interface
circuit and generates an analog voltage proportional to it.
Electronic switch: An electronic circuit that controls analog signals with digital (binary) signals.
Interface: A collection of electronic modules that provide data transfer between analog and digital systems.
Operational amplifier: A small (usually integrated circuit) electronic module with a bipolar (+/) output
terminal and a pair of differential input terminals. It is provided with power and external components,
e.g., resistors, capacitors, and semiconductors, to make amplifiers, filters, and wave-shaping circuits with
well-controlled performance characteristics, relatively immune to environmental effects.

Related Topic
29.1 Synthesis of Low-Pass Forms

Electronic Design, Hasbrook Heights, N.J.: Hayden Publishing Co.; a biweekly journal for electronics engineers.
(In particular, see the articles in the Technology section.)
Electronics, New York: McGraw-Hill; a biweekly journal for electronic engineers. (In particular, see the circuit
design features.)
J.G. Graeme, Applications of Operational Amplifiers, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1973.
L.P. Huelsman, and P.E. Allen, Introduction to the Theory and Design of Active Filters. New York: McGraw-Hill,
J. Till, Flexible Op-Amp Model Improves SPICE, Electronic Design, June 22, 1989.
G.E. Tobey, J.G. Graeme, and L.P. Huelsman, Operational Amplifiers, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971.
J.V. Wait, L.P. Huelsman, and G.A. Korn, Introduction to Operational Amplifier Theory and Applications, 2nd ed.,
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992.

Further Information
For further information see J.V. Wait, L.P. Huelsman, and G.A. Korn, Introduction to OperationalAmplifier
Theory and Applications, 2nd ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1992, a general textbook on the design of operational
amplifier circuits, including the SPICE model of operational amplifiers; and L.P. Huelsman and P.E. Allen,
Introduction to the Theory and Design of Active Filters, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980, a general textbook of
design considerations and configurations of active RC filters.

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