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Linear IC Applications Unit-1

Lecture Notes-1

Basics of Differential Amplifier


The operational amplifier, most commonly referred as 'op-amp' was introduced in

1940s. The first operational amplifier was designed in 1948 using vacuum tubes. In those
days, it was used in the analog computers to perform a variety of mathematical operations
such as addition, subtraction, multiplication etc. Due to its use in performing mathematical
operations it has been given a name operational amplifier. Due to the use of vacuum tubes,
the early op-amps were bulky, power consuming and expensive.
Robert J. Widlar at Fairchild brought out the popular 741 integrated circuit (IC) op-amp
between 1964 to 1968. The IC version of op-amp uses BJTs and FETs which are fabricated
along with the other supporting components, on a single semiconductor chip or wafer which
is of a pinhead size. With the help of IC op-amp, the circuit design becomes very simple. The
variety of useful circuits can be built without the necessity of knov'ling about the complex
internal circuitry. Moreover, IC op-amps are inexpensive, take up less space and consume
less power. The IC op-amp has become an integral part of almost every electronic circuit
which uses linear integrated circuit. The modern linear IC op-amp works at lower voltages. It
is so low in cost that millions are now in use, annually.

* Because of their low cost, small size, versatility, flexibility, and dependability, op-
amps are used in the fields of process control, communications, computers, power
and signal sources, displays and measuring systems.

The op-amp is basically an excellent high gain d.c. amplifier.

The differential amplifier is the basic building block of IC op-amp. Thus let us study
the differential amplifier and the supporting circuits.

Basics of Differential Amplifier

* The differential amplifier amplifies the difference between two input voltage signals.
Hence it is also called difference amplifier.


Linear IC Applications Unit-1
Lecture Notes-1

Consider an ideal differential amplifier shown in the Fig. 1.1.

V1 and V2 are the two input signals while V0 is the single ended output. Each signal is
measured with respect to the ground.

Fig1.1: Ideal differential amplifier

In an ideal differential amplifier, the output voltage V 0 is proportional to the difference

between the two input signals. Hence we can write,

V0α (V1 − V2 ) (1)

Differential Gain Ad
From the equation (1) we can write,

V0 = Ad (V1 − V2 ) (2)

where Ad is the constant of proportionality. The Ad is the gain with which differential
amplifier amplifies the difference between two input signals. Hence it is called differential
gain of the differential amplifier.
Thus, Ad = differential gain
The difference between the two inputs (VI - V2) is generally called difference voltage
and denoted as Vd.

V0 = Ad Vd (3)

Hence the differential gain can be expressed as,


Linear IC Applications Unit-1
Lecture Notes-1

Ad = (4)

Generally the differential gain is expressed in its decibel (dB) value as,

Ad = 20 Log 10 ( Ad )in dB (5)

Common Mode Gain Ac

If we apply two input voltages which are equal in all the respects to the differential
amplifier i.e. VI = V2 then ideally the output voltage Vo = (V1- V2) Ad, must be zero.
But the output voltage of the practical differential amplifier not only depends on the
difference voltage but also depends on the average common level of the two inputs. Such an
average level of the two input signals is called common mode signal denoted as Vc.
V1 + V2
Vc = (6)

Practically, the differential amplifier produces the output voltage proportional to such
common mode signal, also.

* The gain with which it amplifies the common mode signal to produce the output is
called common mode gain of the differential amplifier denoted as Ac.

V0 = AC VC (7)

Thus there exists some finite output for VI = V2 due to such common mode gain Ac, in case
of practical differential amplifiers.
So the total output of any differential amplifier can be expressed as,

V0 = Ad Vd + ACVC (8)

This shows that if one input is + 25 µ V and other is -25 µ V then the output of the amplifier
will not be same, with the inputs as 600 µ V and 650 µ V, though the difference between the


Linear IC Applications Unit-1
Lecture Notes-1
two sets of the inputs is 50 µ V.

* For an ideal differential amplifier, the differential gain Ad must be infinite while the
common mode gain must be zero. This ensures zero output for VI = V2.

But due to mismatch in the internal circuitry, there is some output available for V1 =
V2 and gain Ac is not practically zero. The value of such common mode gain Ac is very very
small while the value of the differential gain Ad is always very large.
At this stage, we can define one important parameter of the differential amplifier known as
common mode rejection ratio (CMRR).

Common Mode Rejection Ratio (CMRR)

When the same voltage is applied to both the inputs, the differential amplifier is said
to be operated in a common mode configuration. Many disturbance signals, noise signals
appear as a common input signal to both the input terminals of the differential amplifier. Such
a common signal should be rejected by the differential amplifier.
The ability of a differential amplifier to reject a common mode signal is expressed by
a ratio called common mode rejection ratio denoted as CMRR.
It is defined as the ratio of the differential voltage gain Ad to common mode voltage
gain Ac.

CMRR = ρ = (9)

* Ideally the common mode voltage gain is zero, hence the ideal value of CMRR is
For a practical differential amplifier Ad is large and Ac is small hence the value of
CMRR is also very large.
Many a times, CMRR is also expressed in dB, as

CMRR in dB = 20 log dB (10)


Linear IC Applications Unit-1
Lecture Notes-1

The output voltage can be expressed in terms of CMRR as below :

 AV 
V0 = Ad Vd + ACVC = Ad Vd 1 + C C 
 Ad Vd 
 
 
A VC 
V0 = Ad Vd 1 + C
 A  Vd 
  d  
  AC  

 1 VC 
V0 = Ad Vd 1 +  (11)
 CMRR Vd 

This equation explains that as CMRR is practically very large, though both Vc and Vd
components are present, the output is mostly proportional to the difference signal only. The
common mode component is greatly rejected.

Features of Differential Amplifier

The various features of a differential amplifier are
1. High differential voltage gain.
2. Low common mode gain.
3. High CMRR
4. Two input terminals.
5. High input impedance.
6. Large bandwidth.
7. Low offset voltages and currents. 8. Low output impedance.