24-Bit Sigma Delta A/D Converter

Analog Devices recently announced a 24-bit sigma-delta A/D converter with a fast and flexible output data rate for high-precision instrumentation and process control applications

The AD7175-2 converter delivers 24 noise-free bits at 20 SPS and 17.2 noise-free bits at 250 ksps providing you with a wider dynamic range. With twice the throughput for the same power consumption versus competing solutions, the AD7175-2 enables faster, more responsive measurement systems providing a 50-ksps/channel scan rate with a 20-µs settling time.Analog-AD7175-2-Product-Release-Image

The integrated, low-noise, true rail-to-rail input buffer enables quick and easy sensor interfacing, reduces design and layout complexity, simplifies analog drive circuitry and reduces PCB area. The AD717x family, with a wide range of pin and software compatible devices, allows consolidation and standardization across system platforms.

According to Analog Devices, the converter gives “designers a wider dynamic range, which enables smaller signal deviations to be measured as required within analytical laboratory instrumentation systems.”

Specs and features:

  • 2x the throughput for the same power consumption in comparison to other devices
  • Enables faster measurement systems providing a 50-ksps/channel scan rate with 20-µs settling time.
  • Integrated true rail-to-rail input buffer for easy sensor interfacing and simplified analog drive circuitry
  • User-configurable input channels
  • 2 differential or 4 single-ended channels
  • Per-channel independent programmability
  • Integrated 2.5-V buffered 2-ppm/°C reference
  • Flexible and per-channel programmable digital filters
  • Enhanced filters for simultaneous 50-Hz and 60-Hz rejection
  • −40°C to +105°C operating temperature range

Source: Analog Devices

The World Is Analog

The world we live in is analog. We are analog. Any inputs we can perceive are analog. For example, sounds are analog signals; they are continuous time and continuous value. Our ears listen to analog signals and we speak with analog signals. Images, pictures, and video are all analog at the source and our eyes are analog sensors. Measuring our heartbeat, tracking our activity, all requires processing analog sensor information.

Computers are digital. Information is represented with discrete time and amplitude quantized signals using digital bits. Such representation lends itself to efficient processing and long-term storage of signals and information. But information and signals come from the physical world and need to move back into the physical world for us to perceive them. No matter how “digital” our electronic devices get, they always require interfaces that translate signals from the physical world into the digital world of electronics.

Even when computers talk to computers, analog interfaces are required. To transmit information over long distances (e.g., over a high-speed bus between the memory and the processor or over a wired network connection), the digital information needs to be moved into an analog format at the transmitter to drive the communication channel. At the receiver, the signals typically picked up from the channel do not look anymore like digital signals and need to be processed in the analog domain before they can be converted back into digital information. This is even more so if we consider wireless communications, where the digital information needs to be modulated on a high-speed radio-frequency (RF) carrier in the transmitter and demodulated at the receiver. RF electronics are also analog in nature.

The semiconductor industry has lived through tremendous advances fueled by what is known as Moore’s law: about every two years, thanks to increasing device miniaturization, the number of devices on a chip doubles. This exponential scaling has led to unprecedented advances in computing and software and has made the digitization of most information possible. Our literature, music, movies, and pictures are all processed and stored in digital format nowadays. Digital chips make up most of the volume of chips fabricated and it is thus economically desirable to fine-tune CMOS technologies for digital circuits. But electronic systems need analog interfaces to connect the bits to the world and most consumer products now rely on System-on-Chip (SoC) solutions where one integrated circuit contains the whole system function, from interfaces to digital signal processing and memory blocks. SoCs need a lot of analog interfaces, but their area is mainly composed of digital blocks (often over 90%). As technology scales, the performance of the digital core improves and this in turn increases the requirements of the analog interfaces.

Today’s analog designers are thus asked to design more interfaces with higher performance but using circuits that are as compatible with digital circuits as possible. This trend emerged a few decades ago and has grown stronger and stronger driven by the continuing increase of the functional density of SoCs. Not only do SoCs need more interfaces and better interfaces, the analog performance of highly miniaturized devices like nanometer CMOS transistors has steadily degraded.
 

This essay appears in Circuit Cellar #292 November 2014. 

 
Making nanoscale transistors is great to increase the functional density, but has its drawbacks when designing analog circuits. Nanoscale transistors can only withstand small supply voltages. For example, circuits designed with the latest CMOS transistors can only work with a supply voltage of up to 1 V or so. Traditionally analog circuits operated from voltages as large as +5 V/–5 V, but steadily their supply voltage was forced to reduce to 5 V, to 3.3 V, to 1.8 V, to 1.2 V and projections for future devices are as low as 0.5 V or even 0.2 V since reducing supply voltages also helps digital designs reduce energy consumption. However, for analog circuits, reducing the supply voltage increases their susceptibility to noise or interference and degrades signal quality. To add to the difficulties, nanoscale transistors also exhibit more mismatches, leading to random offset errors, more flicker (1/f) noise, and have poor gain performance.

But analog designers always like to rise up to a challenge. Research in academic and industrial groups has devised a number of novel analog design techniques to build better analog circuits while relying less and less on the performance of an individual device. In my group, for example, we have developed a set of design techniques to design analog circuits that operate with supplies as low as 0.5 V.

Scaling also offers new avenues for designing analog circuits. In nanoscale processes transistors are not able to handle large voltages, but they can intrinsically switch very fast. That allows us to introduce different signal representations at the transistor level for analog functions. Instead of using the traditional voltages or currents, we can now use time delays to represent analog information. This opens a whole range of opportunities to explore new circuits. Technology scaling is driving a paradigm shift in analog design away from the transistor used as a current source or voltage-controlled current source towards the transistor used as a fast switch even when processing analog information. In fact, analog circuits are being built out of what traditionally are digital blocks like switches or ring oscillators. But with the appropriate signal representation and circuit arrangements, they can process analog information to provide interfaces between the real world and the digital world.

The analog electronics field is going through very exciting times. The digital revolution in electronics has made analog even more necessary. And the future is looking bright. Mobile devices are packed with analog interfaces and a host of analog sensors, whose count increases with each new generation. The Internet of Things is all about massively gathering sensor information in one form of another, under strict power-consumption and cost constraints. All this while the traditional analog design techniques are clearly showing their limitations in the face of aggressive device scaling. This makes for a very challenging but a very interesting time for analog designers with plenty of opportunities to make an impact. Analog is the future!

KingetTTFPeter Kinget is a Professor of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University in New York. He received his engineering and PhD degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Katholieke Universiteit in Leuven (Belgium). His research group focusses on the design of analog and RF integrated circuits in scaled technologies and the novel systems or applications they enable in communications, sensing, and power management. (For more information, visit www.ee.columbia.edu/~kinget.)

 

New Digitally Enhanced Power Analog Controllers

Microchip Technology recently announced its latest Digitally Enhanced Power Analog (DEPA) controllers—the MCP19118 and MCP19119—which offer analog PWM control for DC-DC synchronous buck converters up to 40 V with the configurability of a digital microcontroller. MicrochipMCP19118

Interestingly, the devices bring together 40-V operation and PMBus communication interfaces for power-conversion circuit development with an analog control loop that is programmable in the integrated 8-bit PIC core’s firmware.  According to Microchip in a product release, “this integration and flexibility is ideal for power-conversion applications, such as battery-charging, LED-driving, USB Power Delivery, point-of-load and automotive power supplies.”

As expected, Microchip’s MPLAB X, PICkit 3, PICkit serial analyzer, and MPLAB XC8s support the MCP19118/9 DEPA controllers. The MCP19118 and MCP19119 are now available with prices starting at $2.92 each in 5,000-unit quantities.

 

One Professor and Two Orderly Labs

Professor Wolfgang Matthes has taught microcontroller design, computer architecture, and electronics (both digital and analog) at the University of Applied Sciences in Dortmund, Germany, since 1992. He has developed peripheral subsystems for mainframe computers and conducted research related to special-purpose and universal computer architectures for the past 25 years.

When asked to share a description and images of his workspace with Circuit Cellar, he stressed that there are two labs to consider: the one at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts and the other in his home basement.

Here is what he had to say about the two labs and their equipment:

In both labs, rather conventional equipment is used. My regular duties are essentially concerned  with basic student education and hands-on training. Obviously, one does not need top-notch equipment for such comparatively humble purposes.

Student workplaces in the Dortmund lab are equipped for basic training in analog electronics.

Student workplaces in the Dortmund lab are equipped for basic training in analog electronics.

In adjacent rooms at the Dortmund lab, students pursue their own projects, working with soldering irons, screwdrivers, drills,  and other tools. Hence, these rooms are  occasionally called the blacksmith’s shop. Here two such workplaces are shown.

In adjacent rooms at the Dortmund lab, students pursue their own projects, working with soldering irons, screwdrivers, drills, and other tools. Hence, these rooms are occasionally called “the blacksmith’s shop.” Two such workstations are shown.

Oscilloscopes, function generators, multimeters, and power supplies are of an intermediate price range. I am fond of analog scopes, because they don’t lie. I wonder why neither well-established suppliers nor entrepreneurs see a business opportunity in offering quality analog scopes, something that could be likened to Rolex watches or Leica analog cameras.

The orderly lab at home is shown here.

The orderly lab in Matthes’s home is shown here.

Matthes prefers to build his  projects so that they are mechanically sturdy. So his lab is equipped appropriately.

Matthes prefers to build mechanically sturdy projects. So his lab is appropriately equipped.

Matthes, whose research interests include advanced computer architecture and embedded systems design, pursues a variety of projects in his workspace. He describes some of what goes on in his lab:

The projects comprise microcontroller hardware and software, analog and digital circuitry, and personal computers.

Personal computer projects are concerned with embedded systems, hardware add-ons, interfaces, and equipment for troubleshooting. For writing software, I prefer PowerBASIC. Those compilers generate executables, which run efficiently and show a small footprint. Besides, they allow for directly accessing the Windows API and switching to Assembler coding, if necessary.

Microcontroller software is done in Assembler and, if required, in C or BASIC (BASCOM). As the programming language of the toughest of the tough, Assembler comes second after wire [i.e., the soldering iron].

My research interests are directed at computer architecture, instruction sets, hardware, and interfaces between hardware and software. To pursue appropriate projects, programming at the machine level is mandatory. In student education, introductory courses begin with the basics of computer architecture and machine-level programming. However, Assembler programming is only taught at a level that is deemed necessary to understand the inner workings of the machine and to write small time-critical routines. The more sophisticated application programming is usually done in C.

Real work is shown here at the digital analog computer—bring-up and debugging of the master controller board. Each of the six microcontrollers is connected to a general-purpose human-interface module.

A digital analog computer in Matthes’s home lab works on master controller board bring-up and debugging. Each of the six microcontrollers is connected to a general-purpose human-interface module.

Additional photos of Matthes’s workspace and his embedded electronics and micrcontroller projects are available at his new website.

 

 

 

A Serene Workspace for Board Evaluation and Writing

 Elecronics engineer, entrepreneur, and author Jack Ganssle recently sent us information about his Finksburg, MD, workspace:

I’m in a very rural area and I value the quietness and the view out of the window over my desk. However, there are more farmers than engineers here so there’s not much of a high-tech community! I work out of the house and share an office with my wife, who handles all of my travel and administrative matters. My corner is both lab space and desk. Some of the equipment changes fairly rapidly as vendors send in gear for reviews and evaluation.

ganssle-workspace

Ganssle’s desk is home to ever-changing equipment. His Agilent Technologies MSO-X-3054A mixed-signal oscilloscope is a mainstay.

The centerpiece, though, is my Agilent Technologies MSO-X-3054A mixed-signal oscilloscope. It’s 500 MHz, 4 GSps, and includes four analog channels and 16 digital channels, as well as a waveform generator and protocol analyzer. I capture a lot of oscilloscope traces for articles and talks, and the USB interface sure makes that easy. That’s pretty common on oscilloscopes, now, but being an old-timer I remember struggling with a Polaroid scope camera.

The oscilloscope’s waveform generator has somewhat slow (20-ns) rise time when making pulses, so the little circuit attached to it sharpens this to 700 ps, which is much more useful for my work. The photo shows a Siglent SDS1102CML oscilloscope on the bench that I’m currently evaluating. It’s amazing how much capability gets packed into these inexpensive instruments.

The place is actually packed with oscilloscopes and logic analyzers, but most are tucked away. I don’t know how many of those little USB oscilloscope/logic analyzers vendors have sent for reviews. I’m partial to bench instruments, but do like the fact that the USB instruments are typically quite cheap. Most have so-so analog performance but the digital sampling is generally great.

Only barely visible in the picture, under the bench there’s an oscilloscope from 1946 with a 2” CRT I got on eBay just for fun. It’s a piece of garbage with a very nonlinear timebase, but a lot of fun. The beam is aimed by moving a magnet around! Including the CRT there are only four tubes. Can you imagine making anything with just four transistors today?

The big signal generator is a Hewlett-Packward 8640B, one of the finest ever made with astonishing spectral purity and a 0.5-dB amplitude flatness across 0.5 MHz to 1 GHz. A couple of digital multimeters and a pair of power supplies are visible as well. The KORAD supply has a USB connection and a serviceable, if klunky, PC application that drives it. Sometimes an experiment needs a slowly changing voltage, which the KORAD manages pretty well.

They’re mostly packed away, but I have a ton of evaluation kits and development boards. A Xilinx MicroZed is shown on the bench. It’s is a very cool board that has a pair of Cortex-A9s plus FPGA fabric in a single chip.

I use IDEs and debuggers from, well, everyone: Microchip Technology, IAR Systems, Keil, Segger, you name it. These run on a variety of processors but, along with so many others, more and more I’m using Cortex-M series parts.

My usual lab work is either evaluating boards, products and instruments, or running experiments that turn into articles. It pains me to see so much engineering is done via superstition today. For example, people pick switch contact debounce times based on hearsay or smoke signals or something. Engineers need data, so I tested about 50 pairs of switches to determine what real bounce characteristics are. The results are on my website. Ditto for watchdog timers and other important issues embedded people deal with.

Ganssle notes that his other “bench” is his woodworking shop. To learn more about Ganssle, read our 2013 interview.