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AN-968

APPLICATION NOTE
One Technology Way P.O. Box 9106 Norwood, MA 02062-9106, U.S.A. Tel: 781.329.4700 Fax: 781.461.3113 www.analog.com

Current Sources: Options and Circuits


by Martin Murnane

VDD

REFIN1(+) GND

IN+
OUT

OUT+

AVDD

AD7794/AD7795

AIN1(+)
AIN1()

IN+
OUT

VDD

IN
OUT+

AIN2(+)

DOUT/RDY

AIN2()
IN

AIN3(+)

MUX

BUF

IN-AMP

-
ADC

SERIAL
INTERFACE
AND
LOGIC
CONTROL

DIN
SCLK
CS

AIN3()
GND

REFIN2(+)
RCM

VDD

REFIN2()
IOUT1

INTERNAL
CLOCK

DVDD

REFIN1()

GND
CLK

07488-001

PSW

Figure 1. AD7794 Current Source Application (See AD7794 Data Sheet for More Details)

INTRODUCTION

LOW CURRENTADC APPLICATION

Many applications require current sources to excite various devices


for sensor drive, accurate measurement, and other applications.
This application note discusses several options that are available
to designers when designing current sources using ICs from
Analog Devices, Inc. It shows examples of current sources from
the microampere range which are integrated in specific devices
and also medium to high power discrete applications up to the
1 A range.

Some ADCs are designed specifically for direct sensor


attachment with internal constant current sources, also
called excitation currents.
The AD7794 device has two programmable excitation currents
that can be programmed from 10 A to 1 mA (see Figure 1).
The current sources are controlled via a register (I/O register)
that enables and directs the current to one of two output pins,
in this case IOUT1 (see Figure 1 for details). This is adequate
for low power portable applications where sensor power
consumption must be low.

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AN-968

Application Note
LOW CURRENTOP AMP APPLICATION
A discrete option for a current source is an op amp driven circuit
is shown in Figure 3. The AD8610 op amp is a relatively high
current drive op amp, driven from 12 V.
10pF

2k
VIN

There are many other ADCs with a constant current source


function available from Analog Devices. For additional information, see www.analog.com/adcs.

LK1

2k

22

6
3

AD8610ARZ
1M

5V

LOAD

The AD7719 ADC has a similar current source setup, with


the maximum current at 400 A (see Figure 2). Similarly, two
current sources are available. Both current sources are 200 A
and can be controlled in a similar manner to the AD7794 ADC:
one or both currents can be sent to the one output pin. This is
clearly shown in Figure 2 where both currents are directed to
the IOUT1 pin, which then drives the bridge and the reference.
See the AD7719 data sheet for more details.

1k
10pF

AVDD
IOUT1
2k

I1

10k

I2

AD8610ARZ

Figure 3. 10 mA Current Source/Sink

REFIN(+)
6.25k
REFIN()
AIN2

IN(+)

XTAL1

AD7719
OUT(+)

OUT()
PRESSURE
BRIDGE

AIN1
XTAL2

AIN4
IN()
AGND

07488-002

AIN3
250

07488-003

Figure 2. AD7719 Current Source Application (see the AD7719 Data Sheet
for More Details)

MICROCONTROLLERS
Analog Devices also offers a range of microcontrollers that
contain current sources in the low current range. For additional
information, see www.analog.com/microcontrollers.

A negative voltage at VIN controls the op amp and raises the


voltage at the output of this device. The output current of the
amplifier flows in the 1 sense resistor. The voltage at the input
of the feedback op amp increases, which produces a voltage of
opposite polarity at the input of the control op amp. A state of
equilibrium is reached and a steady state current flows in the
1 sense resistor. A sense resistor is used to measure current,
but a load resistor can also be used to reduce the cost of expensive
sense resistors. One disadvantage of this is the unknown state
of the circuit if the load is removed, for instance, the amplifier
could saturate.
Note that the AD8610 is chosen because it has excellent current
noise and voltage noise performance. See the AD8610 data
sheet for more information. This circuit can sink or source
10 mA (or greater) by applying a positive or negative voltage
to VIN, respectively.

Rev. 0 | Page 2 of 4

Application Note

AN-968

MEDIUM CURRENTBIPOLAR APPLICATION

HIGH CURRENTMOSFET APPLICATION

An example of a current source that has an even larger current


supply (100 mA or greater) is in the circuit shown in Figure 4.
This circuit uses an op amp output driver push-pull stage to
supply current to the load. When a positive voltage is applied to
VIN, the output voltage of the control op amp rises, which turns
on Q1 and drives current through the 10 resistor to the load.
The 10 resistors are required to prevent thermal runaway.
As the current rises, the voltage on the sense resistor also rises
and the voltage feedback to the control op amp increases until
a state of equilibrium is reached. On reaching equilibrium, a
constant current flows through the load for a fixed input voltage at VIN. This is a constant current source as it is sourcing
current to the load.

If a higher current application is required, then the previous


circuit can be adjusted to increase the current in the load by
replacing the push-pull with a MOSFET and a few other
components.
EXT
+5V

10

Q1

R3
10
E

22pF

12k

Q2
C
0.1F

12V
10F

1
SENSE
RESISTOR

07488-005

This circuit in Figure 5 uses a control loop to set the gate voltage
of a MOSFET (IRF640 N-channel). The circuit in Figure 5 uses
a sense resistor and a feedback amplifier to reduce the sensitivity
of VIN, as mentioned in the previous example. The maximum
current of Figure 5 is 1000 mA. However, the same control loop
can be used to drive even higher currents by changing only the
MOSFET and the sense resistor. Also, an advantage of the circuit
in Figure 5 is that a different voltage supply can be used on the
load rather than the supply powering the circuit, as indicated by
Jumper LK2. This means that if a high voltage MOSFET is used,
like the IRF640, which has a 200 V absolute maximum rating,
then this circuit can operate with much higher voltages than
that of the 15 V powering the rest of the circuit.

E
R2
10

D1

10k

Figure 5. Current Sink Using IRF640 MOSFET, 1000 mA

D2

AD8610ARZ

100m

LOAD

2k

22pF

SENSE RESISTOR

15k

07488-004

LK1

56

190k

10F

P4

1
2

0.1F

10M
3 U1

LK1

5 15k

+12V

VIN

10k

Adding an amplifier at the feedback loop decreases the sensitivity at VIN. For example, a gain of 10 allows a control voltage
at VIN of 1 V.

AD8610ARZ

VIN

For a negative input voltage at VIN, a similar situation arises


except that the Q2 is turned on which causes the current to
flow in the opposite direction. For a constant voltage at VIN,
a constant current flows in the load. With a step input voltage
at VIN, or a VIN voltage of 100 mV at a frequency of 20 kHz,
the circuit can operate quite well with a current settling time of
~3 s. This switching gives a good indication of the stability of
the circuit.

12k

LK2

10M

Figure 4. Current Source/Sink, 100 mA or Greater

Rev. 0 | Page 3 of 4

AN-968

Application Note
LAYOUT MODULE
EXT
+5V

+10V
0.1F
C

12k

LK2

Q1

AD8610ARZ
VIN

10M
2

LK1 15k

P4

D2

1
56

P4
VIN

E
R2
10

R3
10
E

D1

LK3 15k

22pF

Q2

12k

15k

LOAD

10F

The circuit is designed as follows: the MOSFET and sense resistor


are selected to sink 1000 mA. Thus, with a sense resistor of
100 m, the total voltage at full load is 0.1 V. The sense resistor
dissipates 0.1 W. The feedback circuit has a gain of 20 so the
total voltage feedback to the control amplifier is 2.0 V. Therefore, the voltage at VIN, required to sink 1000 mA in the load
is 2.0 V. See Figure 6 for the simulation response. To control this
voltage by driving VIN with a DAC varies the current in the
load, thus making this a variable current source. Fixing the
voltage at VIN to 1.0 V produces a constant current source
of 500 mA.

0.1F

5 15k
7

AD8610ARZ
6

200m

190k
10k

Figure 7. Current Sink Circuit for Full Layout Module

07488-006

VOLTAGE (VIN)
2V/DIV

Figure 6. Simulated Response of the Circuit to a Step Response of the Current


Through Sense Resistor (Duty Cycle is 25%)

The load can be placed at the drain, the source of the MOSFET,
or anywhere in the current path, for operation.
Since heat dissipation of the MOSFET is also critical, a very important factor in determining a MOSFET is its RDS(ON) value. In this
case the RDS(ON) value is 150 m typically. For larger currents,
consider using a RDS(ON) value of <20 m, if possible.

To develop a layout module for a current source that results


in a module that can be used across a wide range of current
source applications, use the circuit in Figure 7 from <1 mA to
>1000 mA. Thus, depending on the current range required, the
same module can be used but only those components required
need to be placed in the PCB.

CONCLUSION
Stability in a constant or variable current source is critical for
accurate measurements. Analog Devices offers a range of
devices that can produce flexible and reliable current sources,
either integrated as in Figure 1 and Figure 2 or discrete as in
Figure 3, Figure 4, Figure 5, and Figure 7 for a wide range of
applications.

2008 Analog Devices, Inc. All rights reserved. Trademarks and


registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
AN07488-0-10/08(0)

Rev. 0 | Page 4 of 4

07488-007

10F

CURRENT SINK
1A/DIV

SENSE RESISTOR

10V