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analogangle By Ron Mancini

Dont let noise ruin instrumentation-amplifier performance

ou cant afford noise in your circuit designs, and certain applications, such as audio, demand lownoise performance.You can minimize external noise

by considering noise during the board-layout stage. For example, you must make power and ground impedances
small enough to minimize the effect of current spikes. Using shielded interconnections and Faraday shields, minimizing noise sources, and liberally dosing the pc board with good decoupling capacitors are additional methods for eliminating external noise. The amplifier itself generates internal, or amplifier, noise. The designer must account for the effects of amplifier noise, because the wrong instrumentation amplifier can make amplifier noise dominant. The two kinds of internally generated amplifier noise are voltage noise, en, and current noise, in. The formal names for these noise terms are input-voltage-noise spectral density and input-biascurrent-noise spectral density; they are defined as the rms noise contained in a 1-Hz bandwidth centered at a specified frequency. Instrumentation-amplifier data sheets often specify the rms noise at 1 kHz. The amplifiers data sheet specifies voltage noise but doesnt always specify current noise. You can easily calculate current noise with the aid of the following formula: in= 2qi, where i is the amplifier bias current and q is the electron charge (q=1.602 10 12 C). When the signal source has low impedance, current noise has little effect, so choose an amplifier that has a low voltage noise. The lowest-voltage-noise amplifiers have bipolar-transistor input stages. When the signal source has high impedance, current noise has a big effect, so choose an amplifier that has low current noise. The lowest current-noise amplifiers have JFET-input stages. Select the voltage and current noises for optimal overall noise performance when the signal source impedance is 1 k to 1 M . This situation is the hardest one to tackle, but a low-

formance for medium- to highsource-impedance applications. An insulated-gate CMOS-transistor stage offers extremely low bias current, but it has more voltage noise than its JFET counterpart. CMOS amplifiers have good noise performance at frequencies greater than 10 kHz, but, because poor 1/f performance handicaps them, you dont usually use CMOS amps for audio applications. All things being equalcurrents, device geometry, second-stage contribution, and so onthe JFET is still a better choice for low-noise performance in the 20-Hz to 20kHz frequency range. The most important parameter in low-noise design is the source

THE MOST IMPORTANT PARAMETER IN LOW-NOISE DESIGN IS THE SOURCE IMPEDANCE.

power bipolar-transistor input stage usually does the job. Normally, low-bias-current amplifiers have low current noise, but this scenario is sometimes not true. If using bias-current cancellation techniques obtains low bias current, this bias current and high noise current may coexist, because the current noise is a function of the actual, not the canceled, bias current. JFET-input amplifiers offer very low bias current and, consequently, very low noise current. The JFETs voltage noise is higher than a bipolar transistors, especially when operating at high collector currents, but the JFET offers excellent overall noise per-

impedance. Low source impedance dictates selection of a low-voltagenoise amplifier. High source impedance dictates that you select a low-current-noise amplifier. And medium source impedance means that the amplifier selection is a compromise between voltage- and current-noise performance. Reference 1. Albaugh, Neil P, The Instrumentation Handbook, not yet published. Ron Mancini is staff scientist at Texas Instruments. You can reach him at 1-352-569-9401, rmancini@ti.com.
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20 edn | October 31, 2002