Analog Circuits Get a Makeover

March 8, 2007
Advances in digital electronic circuits have let consumer goods such as digital cameras and MP3 players become smaller and smaller.

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

MIT professor Hae-Seung Lee and his colleagues have developed new analog circuits - comparator-based switched capacitor circuits - that handle voltage differently than conventional analog ones, resulting in greater power efficiency.
Photo courtesy Donna Coveney
However, the same is not true for older analog circuits in the same devices. And, because analog circuits haven't had the same rate of progress, they drain power and cause other bottlenecks in electronic devices.

The problem may be solved, thanks to researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). They have made analog circuits that eliminate operational amplifiers but still maintain most of the benefits of op-amp circuits. The new comparator-based switched capacitor (CBSC) circuits handle voltage differently, resulting in greater power efficiency.

Analog circuits amplify, process, and filter analog signals and convert them to digital signals. Digital circuits, on the other hand, use CMOS technology, letting software do most of the performance enhancement. There is a lot of room for innovation on the human design of analog circuits.

And, the importance of analog circuits is growing because most real-world signals are analog, so they are an essential part of most electronic systems. The MIT research could eliminate op-amps by allowing designs that rely on circuit blocks and be easily implemented with systems that have supply voltages under one volt. Two prototypes that use comparators exist. The first CBSC is and analog-to-digital converter and the second is an 8-bit, 200 MHz analog-to-digital converter.

More Information:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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