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analogangle By Ron Mancini

Designing with comparators

omparators have an op-amp front end and a digi- output equation for the compara-
tor depends on the relationship
tal back end that operates like a gate. The com- between VIN and VREF; thus, when
parator output stage may be an open collector tran- when VIN%VREF, then VOUT=
VCES!100 mV. The comparator
sistor, so it often connects to the logic supply through a converts any analog signal in its
input common-mode-voltage
pullup resistor. Regardless of the input voltage, the output range to a digital signal. Convert-
ing an analog signal to a digital
voltage is saturated at either power-supply rail because the signal is the definition of a 1-bit
ADC, and the heart of a sigma-
analog front end amplifies input voltages with an almost delta ADC is a comparator.
The comparator circuit in Fig-
infinite gain. If you leave the feed- operating capability, wide input- ure 1 has no noise immunity
back resistor out of an op-amp common-voltage range, and low when VIN!VREF, so, if the input
circuit, it operates like a compara- bias current that the new signal passes slowly through this
tor, but you shouldn’t use op LMV331/393/339 series has. point, the output voltage may
amps to perform comparator Comparators requiring multiple multiple-pulse a series of step
functions except under limited
Manufacturers employ digital NEVER USE AN OP AMP AS A COMPARATOR IF
semiconductor techniques to
make the output circuits in a
comparator; thus, the comparator
comes out of saturation very power supplies use dual voltages functions before it settles to a final
quickly. The response time of a to obtain maximum input voltage. Adding positive feedback
comparator is so important that it dynamic range in a manner simi- around the comparator prevents
is a data-sheet specification. Man- lar to that of an op-amp input multiple pulsing. The comparator
ufacturers employ analog semi- stage. And these comparators use is a nonlinear device, so the posi-
conductor techniques to make tive feedback does not
the output circuit of an op amp. induce oscillation. You
VCC'5V add positive feedback by
(Designers assume that
Figure 1 inserting a resistor in the
the output never satu-
rates.) Hence, the response time input lead and adding a
VIN R resistor from output to
of an op amp driven into satura- &
tion is uncontrolled. It can take VOUT the positive input. The
VREF $ positive feedback intro-
nanoseconds or milliseconds for IL
an op amp to recover from satu- duces hysteresis that pre-
ration. The moral is: Never use an vents multiple pulsing,
op amp as a comparator if but it degrades the
response time is a required The simple comparator requires a pullup resistor to threshold accuracy. Look
parameter. for my next column to
complete the digital interface.
Comparators require one to show how to calculate
three power supplies. The oldest ground and a third voltage to hysteresis and the result-
comparators, such as the !A710, level-shift the output voltage to a ing threshold degradation.!
contain an internal zener diode, compatible logic voltage. Engi-
and you must operate them from neers often configure compara-
dual supplies. Some older com- tors with "15V analog supplies Ron Mancini is staff scientist
parators, such as the LM339/ and 5V and ground for the TTL at Texas Instruments. You can
393, operate from a single supply, interface. reach him at 1-352-568-1040,
but they lack the low-voltage- When the VREF is 0 to 5V, the

56 edn | March 29, 2001