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digital signals. The conversion is done using error feedback, where the difference between the two signals is measured and used to improve the conversion. The low-resolution signal typically changes more quickly than the high-resolution signal and it can be filtered to recover the high-resolution signal with little or no loss of fidelity. This technique has found increasing use in modern electronic components such as analog-to-digital converters (ADCs) and digital-to-analog converters (DACs), frequency synthesizers, switched-mode power supplies and motor controllers. A very popular application of delta-sigma conversion is in audio applications where a digital audio signal, as from an MP3 player, is converted into the analog audio signal which will be amplified and output by speakers or headphones. Because most of the modulator is a digital circuit, it is cheap to construct. Since the output of this modulator typically has only two levels, the generation of the analog output signal is power efficient. Further, because the modulator's output signal changes much faster than the desired audio signal, it can be heavily filtered and the resulting analog signal has high enough fidelity for use in professional applications. Low cost, low power and high fidelity make delta-sigma modulators very popular. Why convert an analog signal into a stream of pulses? In brief, because it is very easy to regenerate pulses at the receiver into the ideal form transmitted. The only part of the transmitted waveform required at the receiver is the time at which the pulse occurred. Given the timing information the transmitted waveform can be reconstructed electronically with great precision. In contrast, without conversion to a pulse stream but simply transmitting the analog signal directly, all noise in the system is added to the wanted analog signal quickly rendering it useless. Each pulse is made up of a step up followed after a short interval by a step down. It is possible, even in the presence of electronic noise, to recover the timing of these steps and from that regenerate the transmitted pulse stream almost noiselessly. Then the accuracy of the transmission process reduces to the accuracy with which the transmitted pulse stream represents the input waveform. There are several methods available to the specialist for quantifying the distortions introduced, all of which are technical, mathematical and are assumed to be of no great interest or value to the layman and so he may safely skip the mathematics. All the layman needs to know is that the specialists have determined that the distortions are within acceptable limits and may even have a value in reducing unwanted aspects of the original signal. Why delta-sigma modulation? Delta-sigma modulation converts the analog voltage into a pulse frequency and is alternative known as Pulse Density modulation or Pulse Frequency modulation. In

then subtracting ∆ from the integral of v so that the combined waveform sawtooths between the threshold and ( threshold . In a formal analysis an impulse such as integral Vdt is treated as the Dirac δ (delta) function and is specified by the step produced on integration.f = k. The different names for the modulation method are the result of pulse frequency modulation by different electronic implementations which all produce similar transmitted waveforms.f = ∆. so the substitution of frequency for voltage is entirely natural and carries in its train the transmission advantages of a pulse stream. which is indicated by the integral waveform crossing a threshold. ADC. so that the frequency. and thus has a known integral V dt but variable separating interval. The interval between pulses. A counter sums the number of pulses that occur in a predetermined period. Σ. f = k. Vdt. is P.v. Analog to digital conversion Description The analog to digital converter. k. Σ.k.v. p.P.v = ∆/p = ∆.∆ ). At each step a pulse is added to the pulse stream. Whence A = ∆.v) The action of the feedback loop is to monitor the integral of v and when that integral has incremented by ∆. light intensity etc. Analysis . P so that the sum.v. Each pulse of the pulse stream has a known.k.general frequency may vary smoothly in infinitesimal steps as May voltage and both may serve as an analog of an infinitesimally varying physical variable such as acoustic pressure. Here we indicate that step as ∆ = integral. Between impulses the slope of the integral is proportional to v = A. is determined by a feedback loop arranged so that p = 1/f = 1/(k.v where k is a constant for the particular implementation.P is chosen so that a digital display of the count. Because P may take any designed value it may be made large enough to give any desired resolution or accuracy. It is the pulse stream which is transmitted for delta-sigma modulation but the pulses are counted to form sigma in the case of analogue to digital conversion. constant amplitude V and duration dt. is a display of v with a predetermined scaling factor. generates a pulse stream in which the frequency of pulses in the stream is proportional to the analog voltage input.

4 volts on the right. . 1 are waveforms at points designated by numbers 1 to 5 for an input of 0.Fig. 1: Block diagram and waveforms for a sigma delta ADC.2 volts on the left and 0. 1a: Effect of clocking impulses Shown below the block diagram illustrated in Fig. Fig.

This has the advantage that neither interval has to be defined with absolute precision as only the ratio is important. Consider first the waveforms on the left. Within the loop 5 triggers the impulse generator and external to the loop increments the counter.4 V on the right during the interval as opposed to 0. This difference is integrated to produce the waveform 4.In most practical applications the summing interval is large compared with the impulse duration and for signals which are a significant fraction of full scale the variable separating interval is also small compared with the summing interval. The stream of delta impulses is shown at 2 and the difference between 1 and 2 is shown at 3. On the right the input is now 0. Construction of the waveforms illustrated at (4) is aided by concepts associated with the Dirac delta function in that all impulses of the same strength produce the same step when integrated. Then (4) is constructed using an intermediate step (6) in which each integrated impulse is represented by a step of the assigned strength which decays to zero at the rate determined by the input voltage. which must accommodate a large count in order to achieve adequate precision.6 V as opposed to −0. Thus the positive slope outside the impulse is higher on the right than on the left. The Nyquist– Shannon sampling theorem requires two samples to render a varying input signal.2 V. Then to achieve overall accuracy it is only necessary that the amplitude of the impulse be accurately defined. Hence the count increments at twice the speed on the right to that on the left which is consistent with the input voltage being doubled. Thus the frequency of impulses is doubled. The threshold detector generates a pulse 5 which starts as the waveform 4 crosses the threshold and is sustained until the waveform 4 falls below the threshold. It is necessary that the ratio between the impulse interval and the summing interval is equal to the maximum (full scale) count. Hence it is convenient and fair to represent the input voltage (1) as constant over a few impulses. The summing interval is a prefixed time and at its expiry the count is strobed into the buffer and the counter reset.4 V and the sum during the impulse is −0. The resultant effect is that the integral (4) crosses the threshold more quickly on the right than on the left.2 V on the left. by definition. The samples appropriate to this criterion are two successive Σ counts taken in two successive summing intervals. The effect of the finite duration of the . The summing interval. Also the sum is 0. It is then possible for the impulse duration and the summing interval to be defined by the same clock with a suitable arrangement of logic and counters. 1 is the input and for this short interval is constant at 0. A full analysis would show that in fact the interval between threshold crossings on the right is half that on the left. Thus the negative slope during the impulse is lower on the right than on the left. is inevitably long so that the converter can only render relatively low frequencies.8 V on the left.

3.5 clock intervals. 8. etc. 1 is a simplified block diagram of the delta-sigma ADC in which the various functional elements have been separated out for individual treatment and which tries to be independent of any particular implementation.g. 7. separately defined intervals may be implemented. 10. 5. 5. Many particular implementations seek to define the impulse duration and the summing interval from the same clock as discussed above but in such a way that the start of the impulse is delayed until the next occurrence of the appropriate clock pulse boundary. 1b: circuit diagram . Where noise is a primary consideration that overrides the need for absolute amplitude accuracy. The effect of this delay is illustrated in Fig. firstly for impulses generated immediately the threshold is crossed as previously discussed and secondly for impulses delayed by the clock. Practical Implementation Fig. secondly that the impulse produces a fixed amplitude step so that the integral retains the excess it acquired during the impulse delay and so the ramp restarts from a higher point and is now on the same locus as the unclocked integral. the noise generated by waiting for the next common clock boundary.impulse is constructed in (4) by drawing a line from the base of the impulse step at zero volts to intersect the decay line from (6) at the full duration of the impulse. As stated. The maximum error that can occur due to clocking is marginally less than one count. and the clocked impulses will occur at 0. for this example. Fig. 2. 1a for a sequence of impulses which occur at a nominal 2. in bandwidth limited signal transmission. 10. e.5. The effect of the delay is firstly that the ramp continues until the onset of the impulse. The effect is that..5. Although the Sigma-Delta converter is generally implemented using a common clock to define the impulse duration and the summing interval it is not absolutely necessary and an implementation in which the durations are independently defined avoids one source of noise. etc. the undelayed impulses will occur at clock points 0.

which is an electrical equivalent.Fig.4 V initially to 1.0 V. are:The clock. in order to show the impulse as a voltage pulse so as to be consistent with previous discussion. Fig 1b and the associated waveforms Fig. Also the current generated through R by −Vref is constant at −Vref/R so that much less noise is radiated to adjacent parts of the circuit. . labelled as they are on the circuit diagram. (a) Vin. 1c. A scrap view of an alternative front end is shown in Fig. 1c: ADC waveforms A circuit diagram for a practical implementation is illustrated. This is shown as varying from 0. the front end given here. 1b which has the advantage that the voltages at the switch terminals are relatively constant and close to 0. is used.0 V and then to zero volts to show the effect on the feedback loop. From the top of Fig 1c the waveforms. Then this would be the preferred front end in practice but.

0 V. thus when the comparator output (e) is positive Q goes positive or remains positive at the next positive clock edge. (e) The comparator output. amp. when Vin is 0. For the remainder of that impulse the capacitor current (c) goes to zero and hence the integrator slope briefly goes to zero. +Vref. butting impulses which are required at full scale input. It shortly thereafter crosses the threshold and this in turn is . implementation of an integrator and comes about because the current into the capacitor at the amplifier input is the current out of the capacitor at the amplifier output and the voltage is the integral of the current divided by the capacitance of C. Similarly. Ic. It will be discovered how this acquires its form as we traverse the feedback loop. After the start of the impulse there is further delay while (e) climbs back past the threshold. Q controls the electronic switch to generate the current impulse into the integrator. Thus the output saturates positive whenever the integral (d) goes below the 0 V reference level and remains there until (d) goes positive with respect to the reference level. Eventually Vin (a) goes to zero which means that the current sum (c) goes fully negative and the integral ramps up. Input information applied at D is transferred to Q on the occurrence of the positive edge of the clock pulse. (d) The negated integral of Ic. To show this sum as a voltage the product R × Ic is plotted. The input impedance of the amplifier is regarded as so high that the current drawn by the input is neglected. (c) The current into the capacitor. During this time the comparator output remains high but goes low before the next trigger edge.(b) The impulse waveform. Following this impulse the full scale positive current is flowing (c) and the integrator sinks at its maximum rate and so crosses the threshold well before the next trigger edge. This is consistent with contiguous. shortly before the end of the next impulse. This negation is standard for the op. Whenever the negative input terminal is taken negative with respect the positive terminal of the amplifier the output saturates positive and conversely negative saturation for positive input. Then the integration now has zero slope and remains at the negative value it had at the start of the impulse. is the linear sum of the impulse voltage upon R and Vin upon R. Thus the clock determines the duration of the impulse. when (e) is negative Q goes negative at the next positive clock edge. Examination of the waveform (e) during the initial period illustrated. (f) The impulse timer is a D type positive edge triggered flip flop. Vin (a) goes to full scale. This has the effect that the impulse current remains switched on because Q is stuck positive because the comparator is stuck positive at every trigger edge. For the next impulse the threshold is crossed immediately before the trigger edge and so the comparator is only briefly positive.4 V. At that edge the impulse starts and the Vin current is now matched by the reference current so that the net capacitor current (c) is zero. shows (e) crossing the threshold well before the trigger edge (positive edge of the clock pulse) so that there is an appreciable delay before the impulse starts. At that next trigger edge the impulse timer goes low to follow the comparator. The comparator is a very high gain amplifier with its plus input terminal connected for reference to 0.

both in the ADC and the sigma delta modulator. The capacitor current (c) is now zero and so the integral slope is zero. thus switching the impulse current off. One possibility for reducing this error is to halve the feedback pulse length to half a clock period and double its amplitude by halving the impulse defining resistor thus producing an impulse of the same strength but one which never butts onto its adjacent impulses. remaining constant at the value it had acquired at the end of the impulse. 1a. . The Vin waveform is approximated by passing the countstream (g) into a low pass filter. Then there will be a threshold crossing for every impulse.followed by Q. In this arrangement a monostable flip flop triggered by the comparator at the threshold crossing will closely follow the threshold crossings and thus eliminate one source of error. Thereafter the summing interval. however it suffers from the defect discussed in the context of Fig. sigma count and buffered count are produced using appropriate counters and registers. (g) The countstream is generated by gating the negated clock with Q to produce this waveform.

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