You are on page 1of 32

ELEC 353 1


Operational amplifiers are among the most widely used integrated circuits for analogue electronics.
They are very popular for amplification of small signals, both AC and DC. They are also used in circuits
performing a variety of other 'operations' such as analogue addition, differentiation and integration.

Elementary Properties of Operational Amplifiers
They are usually purchased as an integrated circuit (IC) with eight pins, a minimum of five of these pins
being connected to the 'chip' (of silicon containing tiny interconnected transistors etc) inside. The circuit
symbol is shown opposite. Note that there are two inputs. The chip (or IC) is a differential amplifier
which has been wired internally to sense the voltage difference (V+ - V-) between the input terminals,
amplify this by a gain, A, and present this at the output;
ie we have Vo = A(V+ − V− ) .

+E (+15 V)

V+ +
inputs A Vo
V- -
-E (-15 V)
In order to perform this amplification, the IC must, of course, be connected to a DC power supply (or
battery). Normally this DC is supplied as +E and -E volts as shown. Supply voltages in the range ±9 V
to ±15 V are common but lower values down to about ±3 V are possible with some sacrifice in
performance. Because the DC power supply (or battery) is absolutely essential to the operation of the
device, it is assumed to be there and is very seldom shown on circuit diagrams.

The gain of the chip, A, is usually about 2 x 105 (at least for DC) though variations of a factor of two or
more must be expected between individual chips of the same type number. The manufacturer's data sheet
supplies this information.

The small signal resistance between the input terminals is typically 1 - 2 M? , though it may be much higher
in certain devices. In most of our circuits, we will not need to allow for this input resistance; it will simply
be 'high'. However, at times we will need to know its approximate size to check what approximations will
be valid.

Note that the two input terminals are not quite identical. They differ only in terms of sign. When the '+'
input terminal (ie the voltage V+ ) is made (slightly) more positive, the output, Vo, will become more
positive but when the '-' input terminal (ie V-) is made (slightly) more positive the output voltage will
become slightly more negative, since Vo = A(V+ - V-). For this reason the '-' input is known as the
inverting input and the '+' input as the non-inverting input.

The output resistance is low, typically 100? or less, and can thus often be neglected. (Note, however,
that this low output resistance doesn't mean a typical op amp can drive large currents. Typically the
manufacturer has added extra circuitry which limits the output current to 25 mA. This is to prevent
possible destruction of the device by shorting the output. If you do not try to draw more than 25 mA from
the output this 'current limiting' circuitry has no effect.)

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 2

These operational amplifier IC's are seldom used without feedback because their gains are too large and
too variable (both with temperature and from one chip to the next) to be useful in practice. With
feedback, the op. amp. chip is the basic building block of many high performance circuits.

Simple Inverting Amplifier
The circuit below, known as the simple inverting amplifier, is a very convenient, stable, and widely used
amplifier for both DC and AC signals. We will show that its voltage gain is given by Af = o = − f to
Vin R1
a (usually) very good approximation. The stability and convenience come from the fact that the gain is just
the ratio of two resistors. The minus sign just means that the output is inverted with respect to the input.
Note that the feedback provided by Rf is negative. (It goes to the '-' input.)
If Rf

I1 R1
Ii V- -
Ri A
V+ +

We could, of course, solve the circuit completely, using Kirchhoff's Laws and the manufacturers values of
the gain, A, and internal impedance, Ri. (Indeed, you might like to try for yourself; it's not particularly

However, we will prefer to use approximations because this will be simpler, give us more insight, and allow
us to solve more readily a variety of different circuits which use the operational amplifier chip.

We will take A = 2 x 105 and Ri = 1 M? since these are very typical values. We will think of Rf = 100
k? , R1 = 10 k? , and Vin = 1 volt (DC or AC). (The above formula for the gain of the amplifier thus
predicts V0 = − f Vin = -10 volts.)
We will now prove the above formula for the gain, Af.

Since Vo = A (V+ - V-) and V+ = 0 we have V- = -Vo/A. But A = 2 x 105, so that V- will normally be
very small compared with either Vo or Vi. In particular, in our example, we would have V- = -Vo/A =
10/(2 x 105) = 50 µV which certainly is small compared to Vin = 1 V and Vo = -10 V.
Thus V− ≈ 0 .

Hence the voltage across Rf = V- - Vo ˜ -Vo

and the voltage across R1 = Vin - V- ˜ Vin .

Thus the current through Rf = I f = −
and the current through R1 = I1 = .

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 3

Now Ii , the current into the op amp chip, is very small indeed because

(V− − V+ ) V− 50 µV
Ii = = = = 50 pA . In comparison,
Ri Ri 1 MO

Vo −10 V
If =− = = 100 µ A and
R f 100 kO

Vin 1V
I1 = = = 100 µ A .
R1 10 kO
Thus, because Ii is negligible, we have I f = I 1 to a very good approximation. Hence (substituting the
expressions for If and I1 from above):
− 0 = in which, when rearranged, gives
Rf R1

Vo R
Af = = − f for the voltage gain of the simple inverting op amp amplifier.
Vin R1

Two Important Principles:
The above analysis brought to light two very important principles in such circuits as the one above
with high gain op amps:

(1) V− ≈ 0 This is often expressed by saying the '-' (inverting) input terminal is a 'virtual ground'.
When V+ ? 0 this excellent approximation becomes V+ − V− ≈ 0
because V+ - V- = Vo/A and A is normally very large.

(2) I f ≈ I 1 Essentially all the current going through R1 (from the amplifier input) continues on through Rf .
(Only a tiny fraction of I1 goes into the chip itself.)

The Approximations:
Generally the approximations will be valid if, for the whole (inverting) amplifier, we have

ie the approximations, V- ˜ 0, and If = I1, will be valid provided our (inverting, feedback) amplifier is set
up to achieve a gain, f , which is much less than the gain, A, of the chip alone. (Obviously we can't
expect more gain from our feedback amplifier than from the chip alone when the gain is negative as above.)

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 4

Simple Non-Inverting Amplifier
When a non-inverting gain is required the circuit shown below can be used.

Ii V+
Vin Ri A
V- - V0
I1 R1 Rf

The first of our op amp principles above tells us that V+ - V- ˜ 0 (ie V+ - V- is very much less than Vin or
Vo) so that V- = V+ = Vin . Our second op amp principle gives If = I1 (since the current into the chip itself
is very tiny indeed).

Hence, voltage across R1 = V- = Vin = I1R1

and voltage across R1 + Rf = Vo = I1(R1 + Rf ).

Dividing the two equations (on the right) gives:

Vo R1 + R f R
Af = = = 1+ f
Vin R1 R1
for the voltage gain of our non-inverting amplifier.

Input Resistance:
The current flowing into the non-inverting amplifier, Iin, is just the small current going into the chip itself.
This is given by
V − V− V AV
I in = + = o = f in
Ri ARi ARi
where Af = o = 1 + f , the voltage gain of the non-inverting amplifier as above.
Vin R1
Vin A
Hence, we have Rin = = Ri for the input resistance of our non-inverting amplifier. This is normally
I in Af
rather high since Ri, the internal resistance of the chip itself, is at least 1 - 2 M? and usually we will have A

Voltage Follower:
If we make Rf = 0 and R1 = 8 (by removing it) then we get the circuit below and, from above, we have
Iin V+
Af = o = 1 and Rin = Ri A .
Vin Ri A
Vin V- -
This is called a voltage follower; it has a gain of one,
very high input impedance and very low output
impedance. It is very useful as a buffer between a high

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 5

impedance source and low impedance load.

Equivalent Circuit

Ii A(V+ - V-) V0

To find the output resistance we connect a test voltage (Vt) to the output and short the input to earth, so
the equivalent circuit becomes:

Ri It
A(V+ - V-) +
V+ --

At the node “a” we sum over all the currents:
V − V− A(V+ − V− ) − Vt
It + + + =0
Ri Ro
R + ( A + 1)Ri V Ro Ri
Now V+ = 0 and V- = Vt so I t = o Vt or Rout = t =
Ro Ri I t Ro + ( A + 1)Ri
eg for the OP-177: A = 12x106, Ri = 45 MΩ, and Ro = 60 Ω so Rout = 0.000005 Ω = 5 µΩ

Other 'Operations' with the Op Amp

I1 R
I2 R V
- -
I3 R
V3 +
V+ Vo

The principle of negligible current into the op amp chip gives us If = I1 + I2 + I3

The virtual ground principle gives V- ˜ V+ = 0, so that the voltage across each of the three input resistors
(R) is V1, V2, and V3, and the voltage across the feedback resistor (Rf ) is -Vo.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 6

Vo V1 V2 V3
Hence − = + +
Rf R R R
If Rf = R, then − Vo = V1 + V2 + V3 .

Two or more voltages can be added in this way without interfering with each other. This type of circuit is
used in digital to analogue converters but the input resistors would be R, 2R, 4R etc according the
significance of the bit providing the input voltage.

If C

I R1 V-
+ Vo

If Rf is very large, we have I = If, and, since V- ˜ 0, the voltage across C is -Vo and the voltage across
R1 is Vin .
NowVo = − (where q is the charge on C)
1 1 v 1
R1C ∫
= − ∫ idt = − ∫ in dt ie Vo = − Vin dt ie the output voltage is the integral of the
C C R1
input voltage. E.g. a square wave in gives a saw-tooth (triangle) wave out.

In practice, a large resistance (say Rf ˜ 10 M? ) is usually needed across the capacitor for satisfactory DC
performance (see later).

- -
Vin +
V+ Vo

As usual, I = If, voltage across Rf is -Vo , and voltage across C is Vin .

Hence Vo = − R f I = − R f where q is the charge on C

d q
= −R f (CVin ) since C =
dt Vin

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 7

and, since C is constant, Vo = − R f C . The output voltage is thus equal to a constant times the
differential of the input voltage.

What’s Inside: Amplification of DC Signals
Recall that (1) a transistor can amplify signals only when the currents are flowing through it in the right
direction and (2) there has to be a DC voltage of about 0.7 volts at the input (ie between emitter and base)
of the transistor. In view of these two facts you might well wonder how the transistors in the input circuit of
an operational amplifier chip could possibly amplify DC signals as small as a few millivolts, let alone signals
down in the µV region. Further, the op amp amplifies the signals faithfully whether they are positive or
negative (ie whether V+ - V- is positive or negative).
+15 volts (DC)

1 MΩ 1 MΩ
- Vc2 +15 V
c c Output
T1 T2 b V0
b in Gain = A' = -1000 out
V+ e e
-15 V

-15 volts (DC)

The trick is to join two transistors together at their emitters, letting the two 0.7 volts offset each other, and
then to put the (DC) signal between their bases. This is shown in the above schematic circuit diagram.

The manufacturer makes the two (npn) transistors (T1 and T2) as identical as possible; they are both grown
at the same time as part of the chip integrated circuit. In the circuit in the op amp they are fed by a 20 µA
constant current generator (made of other transistors) and when V+ = V- (˜ 0) we can expect the 20 µA
current to divide equally between the transistors, T1 and T2, so that the (emitter) current in each will be 10
µA and the base-emitter voltages (Vbe) will be equal (at about 0.7 V).

If the '+' and '-' inputs are connected together and their common voltage is varied by a few volts
about zero volts, there will be almost no change to the current through either T1 or T2 because (1) the
total current is constrained by the constant current generator to remain at 20 µA and (2) this current will
still split equally between the two identical transistors with their identical base voltages. Since the collector
currents do not change, the voltages across the 1 M? resistors do not change. This insensitivity of the
output voltage to the common voltage of the two inputs is called common-mode rejection.

However, if V+ is now made a little more positive (by a few millivolts) than V- , Vbe2 will be greater than
Vbe1 by this amount, and more current will flow in transistor T2 than in transistor T1. This, in turn will
increase the voltage across the 1 M? resistor attached to T2 and decrease the voltage across the 1 M?
attached to T1. A small voltage difference between the input terminals thus causes a large change
in the output voltage. The pair of transistors, T1 and T2, are forming a differential amplifier. This
particular arrangement with the emitters connected together and to a constant current source is sometimes
referred to as a 'long tailed pair'.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 8

This input voltage, Vi =V+ - V- = Vbe2 - Vbe1, is a small signal voltage and thus the corresponding input
current, ib = ib2 = -ib1, can be calculated from the small signal equivalent circuits for the transistor inputs
(connected at the emitter) as shown. The input resistance of the op amp is thus 2hie where hie = hie1 = hie2
since the transistors are identical. Hence we have ib = i . (Note that it doesn't matter whether we use
Vi or v i for the input voltage because, at the input, the signal voltage is the total voltage; ie Vi = v i).
vi e1


The change in the collector current of T2 (or collector signal current) is given by ic2 = βib2 = βib.
Hence the voltage gain between the input (b2, b1) and the collector of T2 is
vc 2 βi x 1M Ω
=− b
vi ib 2 hie
For the op amp's input transistors β ˜ 200, and with a collector bias current of 10 µA, hie ˜ 0.5 M? , so
that the voltage gain of our (idealized) input stage is v c2/v i ˜ -200. This signal voltage, v c2, is then further
amplified by a factor of -1000 by the (DC coupled) transistors (not shown) in the rectangular box. This
gives a total gain of 200,000 which is the same as for many standard op amps such as the popular

The actual circuit for an LM741 is discussed in Millman and Grabel (1987) and Sedra and Smith (1987).
The circuit shown above is somewhat simplified but does allow us to show the essential principles.

Offset Voltages, Bias Currents and Offset Currents
We now look at some of the detailed DC characteristics of operational amplifiers which we have been
largely able to ignore up to now. However, these characteristics may become critically important when

1) we want to detect or measure very small DC signals,
2) we want to accurately measure any DC signal, and
3) when we want to use large resistors at the op amp inputs.

Input Offset Voltage:
Although the manufacturer tries to make the input transistors identical, he does not usually quite succeed.
The result is that, for most op amp chips, zero volts between the '+' and '-' inputs does not give zero volts
out. The chip gives zero volts out only when a small voltage difference (typically up to about ±2 mV) is
applied between its inputs. This small voltage difference, ∆V = V+ - V- , required to give zero volts out of
a individual op amp chip, is called its input offset voltage. From chip to chip (even with the same type
number) it is randomly positive or negative but usually within the range ±2 mV.

The effect of these input offset voltages on the simple inverting amplifier can be illustrated by considering
the circuit below. We will suppose that this particular chip has an input offset voltage of - 1.5 mV (ie it
needs V+ - V- = -1.5 mV to give zero volts out). With the switch in the position shown, it can readily be

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 9

seen that when Vin = 0, we will have Vo = 0 too because then V- = 0, and with the tiny 'battery' making V+
= -1.5 mV, we do indeed have V+ - V- = -1.5 mV, as required for Vo = 0.

If we now flick the switch to convert our circuit into a normal inverting amplifier, we see that we will
change the voltage at the '+' input by + 1.5 mV (from -1.5 to 0) in doing so. This will cause the output
voltage to change (from zero) by 1.5 mV x the gain of the non-inverting amplifier, since we are making the
1.5 mV change at the non-inverting ('+') input. Hence the output voltage will become
200 kΩ
Vin 1 kΩ _
R1 V0

1.5 mV _

200 k?
Vo = 1.5 mV x (1+ ) = 301.5 mV ˜ 0.3 V
1 k?

This is the output offset voltage of the simple inverting amplifier (with '+' grounded). Thus with this
typical chip in this simple inverting amplifier we will have to put up with the fact that when Vin = 0, Vo will
be about 300 mV, not zero as we would have liked.

Of course, there are elementary solutions for this. The first is that we simply remember that, for our
particular amplifier, 0.3 volts out means zero in and thus we can mentally correct for the problem (or use a
computer!!) but this is inconvenient (or extravagant). The second would involve using the little battery
above, or better obtaining the voltage needed from a resistor potential divider from the main power supply.
A more convenient version of this is found in certain op amp IC's (e.g. the popular LM301) which have an
extra pair of pins to which the user can attach a suitable potentiometer circuit and readily adjust the input
offset voltage to zero.

All of the above techniques will work and are used, but a different separate adjustment has to be made on
each op amp since they all have different input offset voltages. This is expensive for mass production.

Input Offset Voltage Temperature Coefficient:
In accurate or small DC signal work the input offset will have been adjusted (effectively) to zero as
above but still not taken into account will be the fact that the input offset voltage varies with temperature
(up to 15 µV/0C for an LM741) so that it will have been possible to eliminate its effect at only one
temperature. Thus for very accurate work (or very small signals) some form of temperature control may
be necessary.

By paying more money it is normally possible to choose an op amp which has a lower value of the
temperature coefficient for its input offset voltage (e.g. 1 µV/0C for the LM308A).

Input Bias Currents:
Recall that each of the input transistors (T1 and T2) has a collector-emitter bias current of 10 µA. This is
only possible if each of these transistors has a bias current going into its base of 10 µA/β ˜ 10 µA/200 ˜
0.05 µA = 50 nA. These base bias currents are called the input bias currents of the op amp and must

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 10

be supplied by whatever is connected to the '+' and '-' inputs. These bias currents must therefore flow
through the connections/components (resistors) which we connect to these inputs.

If we make no such suitable connections/components available for the input bias currents, then T1 and T2
will not turn on (preventing the not-quite-perfect 'constant current generator' from passing its 20 µA) and
the op amp chip will not work. Conversely, if the op amp is working (the only case we're interested in!)
the required input bias currents are flowing into the '+' and '-' inputs.

The effect of these inevitable bias currents on the DC performance shows up most markedly when we use
large resistors at an input. We will use the circuit below to illustrate the size of the effect. We will assume,
for the moment, that the manufacturer has succeeded in making the two input transistors identical so that
both have the same input bias current, Ib, as shown and there is no input offset voltage.

Case 1 - Effect at Output:
Suppose Vin = 0. If some of the bias current for the '-' input tries to flow through the 1 M? resistor, it will
cause a voltage drop across it making V- (slightly) negative thus forcing Vo (significantly) positive which will
drive a current through the 4 M? resistor which will then supply the '-' input with most of the required bias
current of 50 nA.
4 MΩ
1 MΩ Ib
Vin _
R1 Ib

If virtually all of the required 50 nA flows through the 4 M? resistor, there will be a voltage drop across it
of 50 nA x 4 M? = 200 mV. This voltage drop will be maintained by Vo = +200 mV and V- ˜ 0
according to our virtual ground principle. Actually, since V+ = 0 (being grounded) we have V- = -Vo/A =
-200 mV/200,000 = -1 µV which is very small as expected. Further this means that the part of the bias
current in the 1 M? resistor is just (Vin - V-)/1 M? = 1 µV/1 M? = 1 pA which confirms our earlier
statement that most of the required 50 nA of bias current does indeed come from Vo and the 4 M?
resistor in this case where Vin = 0.

Thus the effect of the input bias currents in this amplifier is to give an unwanted 200 mV at the output
when the amplifier input (Vin ) is zero.

Case 2 - The Effect at the Input:
We will now ask a different question about the effect of the bias currents on our amplifier above: what
value of input voltage, Vin , is required to make Vo = 0? This is equivalent to asking how big an input
signal must be in order to be detectable, in the sense that it does not get 'confused' with uncertainties in the
bias currents. (Although we have calculated our input bias currents at 50 nA, manufacturing tolerances are
such that one chip may have inputs bias current of 50 nA but another, with the same type number, might
have 100 nA or 25 nA.)

When Vo = 0 we must have V- = 0 too. Hence none of the input bias current will be supplied through the
4 M? resistor in this case. All of it must come through the 1 M? resistor driven by the voltage across it,
Vin - V- = Vin. Thus we will need Vin = 50 nA x 1 M? = 50 mV which might well be a lot bigger than
the signals (e.g. thermocouple voltages) which we are interested in.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 11

Of course, one solution to this problem is to avoid the use of large resistors and indeed this is common
practice. However, the input resistance of the amplifier (which is just R1) may not then be high enough
for the application. To see that the amplifier input resistance, Rin is indeed R1, note that Rin = in where iin
is the (DC) signal current flowing into the amplifier (ie through R1) when a (DC) signal voltage, Vin, is
applied. But the (DC) signal voltage across R1 is Vin - V- = Vin so that iin = in hence Rin = R1 .

The Solution for (Equal) Input Bias Currents
It turns out, as we shall shortly see, that the voltage offsets caused by the input bias currents can be
completely eliminated (when the '+' and '-' bias currents are equal) by the simple addition of one suitable
sized resistor between the '+' terminal and ground. This resistor has no effect on the signal performance
because the signal current into the chip, and hence through our new resistor, is so tiny.

In the following circuit this extra resistor is shown as two resistors in parallel (equal to R1 and Rf) to clarify
the explanation but they would normally be combined into one resistor in practice. What we want is zero
volts in (Vin = 0) giving zero volts out (Vo = 0). Lets suppose we've achieved this and see if it is self-

Each bias current will be able to flow from zero volts (Vin = 0, Vo = 0, and ground) either through a 1
M? or through a 4 M? resistor. Thus the voltage drop (between ground and input) will be the same in
both cases. Therefore V+ = V- , which is consistent with Vo = 0 ; so we have achieved what we want
(zero volts in gives zero out). To complete the picture, you might like to note 4 M? in parallel with 1 M?
is 0.8 M? so that V+ = V- = -0.8 M? x 50 nA = -40 mV.
4 MΩ
1 M Ω Ib _
Vin Vo
1 MΩ
4 MΩ

ie the circuit has adjusted the '+' and '-' inputs to be equal at 40 mV below zero, to allow the bias currents
to flow in through the resistors.

Input Offset Currents:
Unfortunately the manufacturers do not manage to make the input transistors sufficiently identical for the
bias currents, Ib+ and Ib- , into the '+' and '-' inputs respectively to be exactly equal. The difference, Ib+ -
Ib- , is known as the input offset current. It varies from chip to chip (even with the same type number)
and is randomly positive or negative. In their data sheets, manufacturers give typical values which are
often about 0.1 - 0.3 of the (average) input bias currents but there are wide variations.

The above circuit thus corrects automatically for the input bias currents (to the extent they are equal) but
not for these so-called offset currents. The output of a given amplifier can, of course, be individually
adjusted to zero by finely adjusting the resistor between the '+' input and ground. Unfortunately individual
adjustment for mass production is expensive.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 12

Input Offset Current Temperature Coefficient
In accurate or small DC signal work (especially with large resistors) the output will have been (individually)
adjusted to zero as described above but still not taken into account will be the fact that the input offset
current varies with temperature (up 0.5 nA/0C for a LM741) so the adjustment will be correct at only one

Some temperature control may thus be needed for the highest accuracy though first one should probably
pay a little more and buy a better chip - e.g. the LM308A which has typical input bias currents of only 0.8
nA and typical input offset currents of 0.05 nA with temperature coefficient of only 2 pA/0C.

The LM308A achieves these impressively low bias currents principally by using super β transistors (where
β ˜ 5000) at the input. These transistors are not available as discrete components because the high β is
achieved at the expense of very low breakdown voltages which would make them too sensitive to
destruction for normal use but, inside the IC, they are protected by special circuitry which ensures they
never have more than a volt or two across them.

Superposition of Offsets:
It is often convenient to work out the effects of the bias and offset currents separately from the effects of
the offset voltages. The superposition theorem then allows us to work out the result of all their effects
acting together just by adding the voltages from the individual effects. The superposition theorem
applies whenever the circuit is linear; ie where the (small) change in a current is directly proportional to
the (small) change in voltage which has produced it and vice-versa. (ie double the change in voltage gives
double the change in current.)

Stability and Frequency Response
We will now discuss the properties of op amps which are more relevant to their AC (rather than DC)

Stability: Will it oscillate when we don't want it to?
Every amplifying device (transistor, vacuum tube, FET....) has inevitable (shunt) capacitance and (series)
resistance associated with it. Thus generally every amplifier is equivalent to a sequence of low pass filters
and frequency-independent amplifiers as is depicted, somewhat approximately and schematically, for a
possible op amp, in the diagram below. (The low pass filters don't, of course, have to be the simple two-
component RC filters shown but they quite often are.)

A1 C A2 C A3 C A4 C A5



The RC low pass filters have a gain of one at low frequencies (or DC) so that the overall gain is A1 x A2 x
A3 x A4 x A5 = A = 200,000 say. At low frequencies (and DC) the output, Vo, is in phase with the input,
V+, and 1800 out of phase with V- so that the feedback provided by Rf will be negative.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 13

However, as the frequency is increased there will be increasing phase shifts (lags) in each of the RC filters
(shown as identical just for simplicity) and the phase of the output will thus increasingly lag behind the
phase of V+. At some high frequency the total additional phase shift inside the amplifier (due to the RC
filters) will be 1800. (For the particular 'op amp, above, this high frequency would be since this
would give a phase shift of 450 in each RC filter.) At this frequency Vo will be in phase with V-, and the
feedback through Rf will be positive.

The gain of each filter at this frequency will be so that the overall gain between V- and Vo and back to

V- (called the loop gain) will be   x 200,000 = 50,000. Hence, if a very small amount of a signal
1 4

 2
at this frequency exists at the '-' input (which, down in the noise, it certainly will), such a signal will get
amplified by 50,000 and phase shifted by 1800 and applied to the '-' input again (in phase with the original
small amount of signal), whereupon it will get amplified by 50,000 and phase shifted by 1800 and applied
to the '-' input yet again (in phase with the original small amount of signal), whereupon ...

The result is that large oscillations will occur at this frequency where the phase shift within the amplifier is
1800. In fact, the amplifier would be so busy furiously oscillating at this frequency that it would not bother
with any other signals we presented to it. (The oscillations would be so large that it would spend most of
its time limiting against the power supply rails rather than amplifying - it would be driven right out of its
linear regime.) This problem makes the above circuit useless as an op amp; if an amplifier can oscillate at
some frequency, it surely will. There are two possible solutions. The first involves having few enough
transistors that there are no more than two such RC 'filters' so that an additional 1800 of shift will occur
only when the gain has fallen very low. This is a useful solution but strongly limits the number of gain stages
we can have (to one or two) and thus limits the overall gain.

The other solution is to deliberately increase one of the capacitors enormously. Now the maximum phase
shift which can occur from one capacitor is, of course 900, so that if the attenuation from this dominant
capacitor exceeds 200,000 at the frequency at which the other phase shifts total 900, there can be no
possibility of oscillation. This is because either the total gain (amplifier with all RC attenuations) is less than
unity or the total phase shift (from all RC's) is less than 1800 at all frequencies.

This is achieved in practice by the use of a capacitor, C, placed as illustrated below in our op amp
schematic diagram.

The voltage across the capacitor, C, will be Vi' - Vo and so the current through C will be jωC(V i' - Vo) =
jωC(V i' - A'V i') = jωC( 1- A')V i'. This is the same as the current which would flow if the input voltage
had been applied across a capacitor of magnitude C(1- A') ˜ 1000C (since A' = -1000). This increase in
capacitance is another example of the Miller Effect.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 14

+15 volts (DC)

1 MΩ 1 MΩ
- C
V- c c Output
T2 V'i amplifier
T1 b Vo
b in Gain = A' = -1000 out
e e
20 µA (DC)

-15 volts (DC)
The resulting equivalent circuits are shown below. The left panel shows the transistors' (T1 and T2) h-
parameter outputs feeding the amplifier, A'. The AC ground is effectively carried by the +15 V supply

The two terminal network to the left of the dashed line is converted to a Thevenin equivalent in the right-
hand panel. The voltage, Vc2, is the open circuit (AC) voltage out of the collector of T2, which we
calculated when we earlier discussed the operation of T1 and T2. (ie we would have Vc2 = Vi' if C were
removed.) The impedance of the AC Thevenin equivalent circuit between the collector of T2 and AC
ground is approximately 1 M? because hoe-1 ˜ 10 M? with Ic = 10 µA.

c2 C c2
1 MΩ 1 MΩ C(1-A')
βi b hoe
A' = -1000
~ A' = -1000
e2 vc 2

βi b hoe
1 MΩ


Typically the capacitor, C, is about 30 pF, hence the effective capacitance in the equivalent circuit is about
30,000 pF = 30 nF so that the upper cut-off frequency of the effective low pass filter [1 M? and C(1-A')
] is given by
f2 = ˜ 5 Hz .
2p x 1 M? x 30 nF

The frequency response (gain, attenuation) of the low pass filter is given by the usual equation
v i' 1
= so that the gain of the whole op amp
v c2 1 + f 2/f 22
vo 2x105
chip is given by = A= where f 2 = 5 Hz. This is often referred to as the 'open loop
vi f2
1+ 2
gain' (meaning no feedback loop) and is plotted below on a log-log scale.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 15



104 'open loop gain'

1 Frequency (Hz)
2 3
1 10 10 10 104 105 10

Notice that when the frequency is well above 5 Hz, we have
f f
A = 2 x 105 2 = A0 2 where Ao is the DC gain.
f f
Hence Af = A0 f 2 = constant . This constant, Aof 2, is known as the gain-bandwidth
product of the op amp chip. For our op amp (and the LM741), the gain-bandwidth product, Aof 2 =
200,000 x 5 Hz = 1 MHz.
The dotted line in the graph above is the magnitude of the ('closed loop') gain, Af = f , versus
frequency for a simple inverting amplifier where = 10 . Note that an amplifier with feedback will
always have less gain than (though it may be very nearly equal to) the ('open loop') gain of the chip itself.

The ('open loop') frequency response of the typical op amp given above may seem surprisingly poor at
first site. However, it does allow a large number of 'operations' (inverting and non-inverting stable
amplifiers, voltage followers, adders, integrators, differentiators etc) provided the frequency is not too high.

Some op amps like the LM741 (on which we've based our example) have the dominant frequency limiting
capacitor built in; they are virtually unconditionally stable under all likely feedback configurations (ie they
won't oscillate 'unexpectedly').

Other op amps like the LM301 (similar to but all-round slightly better than the LM741) have no such built-
in capacitor but two pins are supplied on the IC for the user to connect his own. This has the advantage
that an experienced user can use a smaller capacitance under certain feedback configurations (such as
when only a small part of the output voltage is fed back to the input) and have a higher frequency response.
The disadvantage is that the user must connect a suitable capacitor and if it is too small the circuit will
oscillate and not function as intended.

Faster op amps are available (for a little more money): e.g. the LM318 has a gain-bandwidth product of
15 MHz so that its 'open loop' gain (A) does not drop below one until the frequency is more than 15 MHz
as opposed to about 1 MHz for an LM741.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 16

Large Signal Limits - DC Supply 'Rails' and Slew Rate

Power Supply Limiting:
The op amp, like any good amplifier, takes a sine wave input and normally generates an amplified, near
perfect sine wave at the output as shown in the left panel below for a signal of 1 kHz. However, most
amplifiers cannot output signals whose peak values exceed the power supply 'rails' (±15 V in our case). In
fact, nearly always, the peak value of the output cannot exceed voltages somewhat less than the power
supply 'rails'.

Op amps tend to be fairly good in this regard; e.g. with a power supply of ±15 V they will normally handle
an output 'swing' of about ±14 V without significant distortion. (If the supply were ±9 V the available
swing would be about ±8 V.)

The left panel in the following diagram is thus showing (about) the largest undistorted sine wave that can be
obtained at the output (with our ±15 V DC supply). If the input signal is increased further (say by 20 %)
the op amp will still correctly amplify those parts of the sine wave which require an output voltage of = ±14
V (according to the normal circuit gain) but 'flatten' the peaks to ±14 V as shown in the right-hand panel
below. This is called limiting. Sometimes it is useful but it creates distortion and is thus normally to be

Output Voltage Output Voltage
+15 +15
+14 +14

Time (ms) Time (ms)
0 0
0 1 2 3 0 1 2 3

-14 -14
-15 -15

Slew Rate Limiting:
Suppose the amplifier just discussed above was a simple inverting op amp with a gain, = 10 , so that its
bandwidth would be expected to be about 100 kHz. When we keep the input sine wave amplitude
constant at the value used to get the (±13.5 V) output in the left panel above and increase the frequency,
we find that the output signal remains sinusoidal initially but when the frequency is still well below 100 kHz
the output tends to become triangular and of smaller amplitude than would have been expected from the
normal gain of 10. This is illustrated in the right-hand panel below for a frequency of 25 kHz.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 17

Output Voltage 1 kHz Output Voltage 25 kHz
+15 +15

Time (ms) Time (µs)
0 0
0 1 2 3 0 40 80 120

-15 -15

The dotted sine wave is what we expected but the triangle is what we get. Further, if we decrease the
amplitude of the input signal to say 0.1 V peak we find we get a perfect sine wave out of 1 V peak just as
we would have expected. Only for small signals does the amplifier work well at these only moderately high
frequencies. Something goes wrong for large signals at these frequencies. What can it be?

The answer lies in the (30 pF) capacitor, which is used in op amps to limit the frequency response and
ensure their stability under feedback. The maximum current which can be obtained out of the collector of
T2 to drive the following circuit (amplifier, A' , together with C ) is limited by the 20 µA constant current

The voltage across C is Vi' - Vo ˜ -Vo since Vi' = Vo/A' = -Vo / 1000. Thus the output voltage can change
at only the same rate as the voltage across C and this is, of course, controlled by the current flowing onto C
(since this current is the rate of change of charge on C). The current to make this change must come from
the collector of T2. Very little of the current from T2 will be needed for the amplifier, A' ; virtually all the
current available from the collector of T2 will be used to charge the (30 pF) capacitor, C.

Because Vi' = -Vo / 1000, and Vo is never more than 10 volts or so, Vi' (ie the voltage at the collector of
T2) never changes by more than a few millivolts. This means that the total voltage across the 1 M?
resistor changes only by small amounts and hence the current through this 1 M? is fairly constant at its
quiescent (rest) value of 10 µA. Since the constant current generator limits the total current to 20 µA, the
maximum current available for charging C is thus 10 µA (under which conditions the current through
T1 would be zero since the 20 µA is shared between T1 and T2).

Hence we have V0 = where q is the charge on the capacitor and Vo, as explained above, is the voltage
dV0 1 dq
across the capacitor. Differentiating with respect to time, we have = for the rate of change or
dt C dt
slew rate of the output voltage, Vo. The maximum slew rate occurs when the charging current has its
maximum value (10 µA) and is thus
 dV0  1
  = x 10 µ A = 0.33 V/µs = 0.33 x 106 V/s
 dt  max 30 pF

If the output is to be a sine wave, v = v p sin(ωt), then the maximum rate of change is given by
= ωv p cos(ωt ) = ωv p when cos(ωt ) = 1 . Thus ωv p = 0.33 x 106 V/s if the output is to be undistorted
for our op amp.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 18

All op amps suffer from this slew rate limitation to a greater or lesser extent. Faster chips are readily
available: the LM318 has a maximum slew rate of 70 V/µs but it costs a little more than a LM741 and
does not have the excellent DC bias properties of an LM308A for example. The designer chooses an op
amp from manufacturers' data sheets to suit the application.

Common-Mode Rejection Ratio
Let A = open-loop (differential) gain of an OA =
v+ − v−
For a “perfect” OA, any signal which is common to v + or v - will have no affect on v o.

For a “real” OA, v o depends on v d = v + - v - and also on the common-mode signal v c = ½(v + + v - )

eg if v + = +50 µV and v - = -50 µV ⇒ v d = 100 µV and v c = 0
but if v + = +1050 µV and v - = +950 µV ⇒ v d = 100 µV and v c = 1000 µV

so we express v o as a combination: v o = A+v + + A-v -
where A+(A-) is the voltage amplification from the +(-) input when the -(+) input is grounded.

So v + = v c + ½v d and v - = v c - ½v d and substituting gives: v o = Adv d + Acv c

Ad ≡ ½ (A+ - A-) and Ac ≡ A+ + A-
Ad = voltage gain for the difference signal (ideally Ad → ∞)
Ac = voltage gain for the common-mode signal (ideally Ac → 0)

And the common-mode rejection ratio is: CMRR = ρ =

 v 
and so in terms of ρ: vo = Ad v d 1 + c  (so want ρ as big as possible)
 ρvd 
[eg if ρ = 1000, v c = 1 mV, v d = 1 µV (so 1st term = 2nd term)
then a 1 µV difference between v + and v - gives the same output as a 1 mV (same parity) signal on v +/v -]

eg if v + = +20 µV, v - = -20 µV and ρ = 100 then v d = 40 µV and v c = 0 V ⇒ v o = 40Ad µV

but if v + = 1020 µV, v - = 980 µV and ρ = 100 then v d = 40 µV and v c = 1000 µV = 1 mV ⇒
v o = 50Ad µV

ie the measurements differ by 25% [if ρ = 10000 ⇒ differ by 0.25%]

Op Amp Specifications
The following typical specifications were obtained from manufacturers' data sheets. (There are often wide
variations possible from the typical values; manufacturers usually try to indicate the extent of these in their data sheets
which should be consulted.)

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 19

LM741 LM301A LM308A LM318 OPA227 OPA277 LM6365 AD8009 OPA13 TS941
General High High Low 4 Micro
Purpose Precision Precision Distortio Audio Power
Low Noise n
Price /$ 0.2 2 7 6 3.7 3.2 16 8 5.2 2.4
Input Offset Voltage /mV 1 2 .3 4 .005 0.01 1 2 0.5 2
Input Offset Voltage tc /µVK -1 10 6 2 0.1 0.2 3 2 7
Input Bias Current /nA 80 70 1.5 150 2.5 0.5 2500 75000 0.005 0.001
Input Offset Current /nA 20 3 0.2 30 2.5 0.5 150 0.002 0.001
Input Offset Current tc /pAK-1 200 20 2 50 300
Input Impedance /? 2M 2 40 3 10 10 8 0.02 1.1x10 5 10 13 CMOS
Input Capacitance /pF 1.4 12 3 2.6 2
Output Impedance /? 75 0.01
Common Mode Rejection Ratio 90 90 110 100 140 102 52 100 85
Gain Bandwidth Product /MHz 1 3 30 8 1 725 1000 8 0.01
DC Voltage Gain /dB 106 104 110 106 160 140 80 120 100
Slew Rate /Vµs -1 0.5 10 70 2.3 0.8 300 5500 20 0.00045
THD /% 0.00005 0.002 0.00008
Noise /nV(√Hz)-1 3 1.9
Supply Current /mA 1.5 1.8 0.3 5 3.7 1 5 14 4 0.0012
tc = temperature coefficient

The Operation Amplifier as a Comparator
A comparator is an amplifier that is designed specifically for null comparison measurements –
eg a very high-gain amplifier with well-balanced difference inputs.
v o = A(VR – v i) v i is usually a time-varying signal and VR is a constant reference voltage. The ideal
comparator has the following transfer characteristic (V+ and V- are the maximum output voltage swings):
v o = V+ if v i < VR
v o = V- if v i > VR

ie the input is compared with the reference VR.

"1" V+

0 vi - VR

"0" V-
We actually have a ‘digital’ output where V- ≡ “0” and V+ ≡ “1” – in fact a 1-bit ADC. For a real
comparator the ∆v o occurs with ∆v i ≈ 2mV, ie the input offset voltage, and it contributes an error of ~
1mV in the comparison of v i and VR (the offset may need to be balanced out).

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 20

Thus the transfer function looks more like
"1" V+

0 vi - VR

Vo "0" V-
Some OAs are specially designed for use as comparators – they are not
VR V1 intended for use with -ve feedback and so the frequency compensation
vi components can be omitted, giving a greater bandwidth; eg 710, 760, 111,
For these, ∆v i can be as small as 15µV, and switching speeds of 20ns.
-Vo A common use for a comparator is to convert a sine-wave into a ‘square-wave’ –

vo VR

Vo vi
ie if we put VR = 0 then v o changes state every time v i goes through zero – a zero-
crossing detector.
vi Regenerative Comparator (Schmitt Trigger)
The gain of a comparator can be greatly increased by using +ve feedback:
vo vo
v1 R1

vi If the loop gain = -βAV = 1, then gain with feedback → ∞
For the above circuit, β =
R1 + R2
eg if R2 = 100Ω, R1 = 10kΩ, AV = -14000 then -βAV = -139
ie if the output increases by ∆v o then β∆v o is fed back to v 1 ⇒ v o will increase
further by βAV∆v o etc…

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 21

if v i < v 1 then v o = Vo ∴ v1 = VR + (V − VR ) ≡ V1
R1 + R2 o

if v i is now increased, then v o remains constant at Vo, and v 1 = V1 = constant until v i = V1 – then the
output switches to –Vo and remains here as long as v i > V1, during which time we have

v1 = VR − (V + V R ) ≡ V2
R1 + R2 o

ie V2 < V1 and VH = V1 – V2 = hysteresis voltage

If v i is now decreased, v o = -Vo until v i = V2, then the output switches to +Vo.

eg for values with Vo = 7V and VR = 1V we have V1 = 1.059V and V2 = 0.921V ⇒ VH = 0.138V

ie small changes across zero do not
cause the Schmitt trigger to change,
whereas a straight comparator would.


Logarithmic Amplifier
By replacing the feedback resistor in a normal inverting amplifier with a diode, D, we will have the output
voltage proportional to the logarithm of the input voltage; ie we want vo = log vi

The volt-ampere characteristics of a diode are given by:
 ηvVd  vd
i d = I s  e T − 1 ≈ I s e VT where VT =
V and v d is the voltage across the diode
  11600
 
and Is is the reverse saturation current. The approximation is valid if d >> 1 or id >> I s .

Hence vd = ηVT (ln id − ln I s ) and so vo = −vd = −ηVT  ln i − ln I s  [note virtual ground]
 R 

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 22


vi vo

The parameter η depends on diode current, but it can be eliminated by using a ground-based transistor
instead (transistor has a wider range than diode (see lab).



This circuit can be further augmented with a second matched transistor which eliminates the saturation
current Is from the equation for v 0. (Is doubles for every 10o rise in temperature.)

ic1 i c2 VR
Q1 Q2

vs _ +
v vo

R3 R4

If Q1 and Q2 are matched (same Is), and ib << ic then

v = vBE2 − v BE1
( ) (
= VT ln i c2 − ln I s − VT ln i c1 − ln I s )
= −VT ln
i c2

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 23

VR v
since i b2 << ic2 ⇒ i c2 = and ic1 = s
R2 R1 R3 + R4  vs R2 
v o = −VT ln  
v (R3 + R4 ) R3  R1VR 
and also vo =

This can be satisfied over a dynamic range of 4-5 decades eg 0.2mV to 20V

Exponential Amplifier
VR ic1 i c2 R1
Q1 Q2
_ RE _

R3 + +

VR vo  R + R4   vo R2 
ic1 = (constant) i c2 =
R2 R1 hence v s = −VT  3  ln  
 R3   R1VR 
and as before  −v s R3 

 R3  RV  
R3 + R4 
ic1 ie v o = 1 R e  VT
v = −VT ln and v = v s   R2
i c2  R3 + R4 

Analog Multiplication
- combine a log and exp amplifiers:

R Unity Gain Adder
vs1 log
+ vF

vs2 log R


Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 24

then for the log amps : v = −k1 ln (k 2 v s )
R + R4 R
let k1 = VT 3 and k 2 = 2 1 −v 0 k1
R3 R1VR and for the exp amp : v F = e
1 ln(k 22v s1vs 2 )
for the adder : vo = − k1 ln (k 2v s1 ) − k1 ln (k 2 vs 2 ) thus v F = e
( )
= −k1 ln k 22v s1v s2 = v0
= k 2 vs1v s2

Squaring and Square Roots
X vs2
vo =
k k

Square Root
v2 X
i2 k

vs _

i1 =
also i1 = −i 2 (opamp)
i2 = 2 kR2
R2 thus v o = v
R1 s
v2 =
R2 1
and if = then vo = vs
R1 k

Voltage Controlled Oscillator (VCO)
This is really a form of analog-to-digital conversion (ADC) since the output is a waveform of fixed
amplitude but varying frequency. The circuit consists of an integrator and a comparator which resets the
integrator when it reaches some threshold voltage.

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 25

ic C
- R3 R
v2 = VR vo
A1 -
Vz vo’(t)
v1 + A2
Vz Vs +


ic = constant current to charge C. The Zener diodes limit the output v 0 to ± (VZ + VD) where VD is the
forward voltage drop of the diodes. The waveform at the output of the integrator has the form:

 R + R2 
VR  1 
 R2 

T1 T
T2 t

If we assume that v0 = −(VZ + VD ) = −V0 then the input to A2 is –ve and so v 0’(t) is an increasing ramp
voltage. Thus v 1 (input to A1) is
VR v 'R
v1 = − 0 2 + 0 1
R1 + R2 R1 + R2
When v 1 > VR, A1 changes state, v 0 = +V0 and v 0’(t) is a decreasing ramp voltage. Vmax occurs when v 1
= VR, ie
R + R2 R
v0 ' = Vmax = VR 1 + V0 2
R1 R1
R + R2 R
similarly, v0 ' = Vmin = VR 1 − V0 2
R1 R1
R R + R2
Thus the peak-to-peak swing is Vmax − Vmin = 2V0 2 and the average value = v0 = VR 1
R1 R1
dv dv '
If VS = 0 then ic = C c = −C 0 (v c = -v 0’ = capacitor voltage)
dt dt
V dv ' V
Now, for v 0 = -V0 ic = − 0 (VS = 0 ⇒ virtual earth) so 0 = 0 (positive sweep speed) and
R dt RC
Vmax − Vmin 2 R2 RC
T1 = =
V0 R1
T 1
Since for a negative sweep v 0 = +V0, then T2 is the same. ie T2 = T1 = = or
2 2f
f =
4 R2 RC

§ f is independent of V0 (ie VZ and VD)

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 26

§ f max is limited by the slew rate of A2 (or the maximum output current)
§ f min depends on the bias currents of the op-amps.

So far we have just described a triangle-wave generator

 R1    VS 

If VS ≠ 0 then f is given by: f =  1 −  V   thus VS is related to f ⇒ VCO.
 2
4R RC    0  
But f is a non-linear function of VS.

Linear VCO

ic C
- Q1
R3 vo vx
A1 -
Vz R vo ’(t)
+ Q2 A2
Vz -vm +

R2 CMOS – SPDT switch

Let β = and note that
R1 + R2
§ sweep speed is controlled by v m
§ waveform amplitude is fixed by the comparator parameters

Assume v 0 = +V0 where V0 > (maximum value of v m) = | v m |max

Ø Q1 is OFF and Q2 is ON
Ø v x = input to integrator = - v m
Ø v 0’(t) increases linearly with sweep speed = +
Vs −1 [ ]
until v0 ' = βV0 = V0 ⇒ comparator changes state to v 0 = -V0 and then
R1 + R2

Ø Q1 is ON and Q2 is OFF
Ø vx = + vm
Ø v 0’(t) decreases linearly with sweep speed = −
[ ]
Vs −1

until v0 ' = −βV0 etc etc

= βV0 − (− βV0 )
vm T
RC 2 R1 + R2 vm
Thus ie f = ie f ∝ v m
R2 4 RCR2 V0
=2 V0
R1 + R2

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 27

In practice the linearity extends over > 3 decades (eg from 2 mV to > 2 V)

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 28

The 555 Timer Chip

GND 1 8 V+
Trigger 2 7 Discharge
Output 3 6 Threshold
Reset 4 555 5 Voltage Control
The 555 Timer is a highly versatile chip specifically designed for precision timing applications. It
can also be used in monostable, astable and Schmitt trigger applications. It can readily produce
accurate timing periods variable from microseconds to several hundred seconds via a single RC
network. Timing periods are virtually independent of supply voltage, have a temperature
coefficient of only 0.005%/oC, can be started with a 'Trigger' signal and aborted with a 'Reset'

Used as an astable, the frequency and duty cycle of the waveform are accurately controlled with
two external resistors and one capacitor. As a monostable, it produces output pulses with typical
rise and fall times of ns.
555 as a monostable
V cc 8 Reset 4

5k Output 3
Voltage Control 5

+ R
Trigger 2 - S
Threshold 6 +
c2 Discharge 7


555 as an oscillator

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 29

V cc 8 Reset 4

5k Output 3
Voltage Control 5

+ R
Trigger 2 - S
Threshold 6 +
c2 Discharge 7


Amplitude Modulation (AM)

DSB (Double Side Band) modulation – simplest
Assume we have a carrier waveform given by: v c = Ac cos ωct
and a signal given by: v s = As cos ωst
where ωs << ωc

We combine them by multiplication thus:

As cos ωst Multiplier Modulated Carrier

Ac cos ωct

vDSB = vcvs = ( Ac cos ω ct )( As cos ω st ) = (cos(ωc − ω s )t + cos (ωc + ω s )t )
Ac As

v s = As cos ωst v c = Ac cos ωct

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 30

v DSB = ( Ac cos ω ct )( As cos ω st ) v AM = ( Ac cos ω ct )(1 + As cos ω st )

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 31

and the frequency spectrum will look like:

ωc - ωs ωc ωc + ωs
This is often called DSB suppressed carrier (DSBSC) modulation. The bandwidth of a DSB signal is
twice that of the signal alone. For Single Side Band (SSB) we simply remove one of the two side bands
(eg ωc - ωs) by filtering, which leaves a single frequency (or band)

Note: NO power is transmitted for SSB unless the signal frequency is present – very efficient.

For AM the carrier is added back into the modulated carrier:

As cos ωs t Multiplier Adder Modulated Signal

Ac cos ωct

v AM = vc (1 + vs ) = ( Ac cos ω ct )(1 + mAs cos ω st )
= Ac cos ωc t + mAc (cos ω ct )( As cos ω st )
= Ac cos ωc t + 1 2 mAc cos(ω c − ω s ) t − 12 mAc cos(ω c + ω s ) t

where m = degree of modulation = v s/v c ≤ 1.

This waveform consists of three sinusoidal components – the carrier ωc, and the upper and lower side
bands ωc ± ωs. The spectrum is now

ωc - ωs ωc ωc + ωs

The simplest AM receiver consists of a diode detector followed by a LPF:

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr
ELEC 353 32

RF Amp Audio


A better receiver uses synchronous multiplication of the signal and carrier (ωc in frequency & phase)
DSB or AM Multiplier LPF
Ac2 As cos ωst

Ac cos ωct

Frequency Modulation
In this case we modulate the frequency (ω) or phase of the carrier wave.
ie vPM = A cos[ω ct + k p vs ( t)]
or vFM = A cos[ω c + k f v s (t )]t
ωc = carrier frequency (88 – 108 MHz for FM broadcasting)
k f, k p = FM and PM constants

In the FM case the spectrum is:

ie there are numerous side bands spaced at multiples of ωs.

FM is easily generated with a VCO – the input voltage in this case is just v s(t). Can use a phase-locked
loop circuit to demodulate FM.

References/Web Sites1
Millman, J. and A. Grabel Microelectronics, McGraw-Hill, 1987.
Analog Devices
Philips Semiconductors
Texas Instruments

Operational Amplifiers 2006-04-04 © Neil R Thomson & John L Bähr