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The future for the operational amplifier. By Reza Moghimi and Craig Wilson.

Huge advances have been made in semiconductor processing and circuit design in the four decades since the first IC op amp was introduced. IC manufacturers have employed these advances to design nearly ‘ideal’ amplifiers.
Although unachievable by definition, the ideal op amp has provided a target for analogue designers. The ideal amplifier is noiseless, has infinite gain, infinite input impedance, zero bias current and zero offset voltage. It is also free and takes up no space. These assumptions are made to come up with the simple transfer functions shown in many text books.
In reality, amplifier selection today is quite complex. This is due, in part, to the variety of system design requirements and the multitude of circuit configurations. There are many performance trade offs and manufacturers such as Analog Devices have worked to provide a portfolio of capabilities to meet user needs.
Amplifier designers continue to push the technology envelope and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. Manufacturers combine new processes, package options and manufacturing capabilities to produce parts that are, in effect, ‘perfect’ for many of today’s challenging applications. Every application requires a different combination of specifications and the number of amplifiers available continues to expand to fit those needs.
Comparing equivalent devices, today’s op amps have wider bandwidth, operate at lower voltages, consume less current, fill less pcb area and cost less than older parts. This trend will continue as signal to noise requirements increase and as real world signal processing takes place in more of our home appliances and industrial equipment.

Reza Moghimi and Craig Wilson

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