End of the Op Amp?

Remember the first widely used integrated circuit operational amplifier, the 709? Almost 40 years after these devices were announced, researchers at MIT have come up with a new class of circuits that could eliminate operational amplifiers (op-amps) in analog applications "while maintaining virtually all the benefits of operational amplifier-based circuits." These researchers say that comparator-based switched capacitor (CBSC) circuits handle voltage differently than conventional analog op-amps.

Dave Robertson, high-speed converter product line director at Analog Devices Inc. and data converter subcommittee chair at the International Solid State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco last week said, "The new work coming out of MIT offers the intriguing possibility of eliminating operational amplifiers by proposing an architecture that relies on circuit blocks that are much more readily implemented on supply voltages of 1 volt or less."

Hae-Seung Lee, a professor in MIT's Microsystems Technology Laboratories and the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science said, "During the past several decades engineers have focused on allowing signals to be processed and stored in digital forms, but most real-world signals are analog signals, so analog circuits are an essential part of most electronic systems."

The MIT researchers planned to demonstrate an 8-bit, 200 MHz analog-to-digital converter at ISSCC 2007.

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