You are on page 1of 5

1 Year Electronics : practical lab notes

3-Mar-15

5. Operational Amplifiers
What is the output impedance of a low pass filter? It certainly depends on the
resistor, but, even worse, the capacitor makes it frequency dependent. This
makes it hard to use simple LRC circuits as building blocks in more
complicated circuits (for example, a bandpass filter made from a low-pass and
high-pass filter) - you quickly find that signals are attenuated as they travel
through the circuit. The circuits you have been investigating so far are
passive meaning they are not powered and you therefore cannot get any
more energy out of them than what you put in! What is needed is a device to
separate or buffer the sections of a circuit without causing interference, or
+15V
1

7 (+15V)

3
(-15V) 4

V-

V+

Vout
6

5
-15V

Figure 1. Op amp pins and connections. The numbers in circles on the right hand schematic
denote the pins of the op amp.

even to boost or amplify signals in a circuit. These active functions are


typical of those that can be achieved using a standard building block, known
universally as an operational amplifier or op-amp.

Op-Amp basics
The op amp that we will use is the TL081, which is packaged in an 8 pin dual
in-line package (DIP) (see figure 1). This is a standard package and literally
hundreds of different implementations can be bought form a wide variety of
manufacturers. The basic pin connections are always the same, with
occasionally some of the legs shown as unconnected here used for other
functions in other devices.
An op amp is an active device - it contains about two dozen transistors and
so requires power, usually 15V. Two legs are used for these power
connections. It has two inputs, denoted + and , and one output. It is a high
gain differential amplifier, with output voltage given by the equation
Vout = G0 (V+ - V-),
where G0 is the gain, which is very large (in the region of 106). G0 can differ
greatly between different types of op amp and even between different
individual op amps of the same design. Furthermore, since G0 is so large the
output will rapidly reach the maximum or minimum values available ( +15V or
15V) if the inputs differ by more than a few millivolts (we say that the voltage

Operational Amplifiers

1 Year Electronics : practical lab notes

3-Mar-15

pins or hits the rail). At first sight all of this might seem rather unhelpful,
however op amps are designed with a particular type of application in mind for
which these characteristics are not a handicap but are indeed a virtue. They
are designed to be used with negative feedback: a fraction of the output is
fed back to V-, the inverting input (look at the equation above to see why it
has this name). In simple terms this has the effect of suppressing the gain of
the device to a degree set by the amount of feedback allowed. Doing this may
seem counter-intuitive at first - why not just build the op-amp with a lower gain
in the first place? We will see how useful negative feedback can be: through
clever control of the signal that is fed back, using passive devices (resistors,
capacitors) we can make the op amp do useful jobs, far beyond
straightforward amplification of signals.
With functioning feedback, the basic behavior of an op amp can be
approximated by a two simple rules, embodying what is known as the ideal
amplifier approximation:
Rule I: The output does whatever is necessary to make the voltage
difference between the inputs zero. [It does this via the feedback
network that you add externally and makes sense because if the
output voltage is not pinned against the rails then this voltage
difference must indeed be very small because of the enormous
raw gain Go.]
Rule II: The inputs draw no current (the op amp is designed to have a
very high input
impedance).

Unity gain buffer circuit


Lets apply these rules to the
simple buffer circuit which
shown in figure 2.
The
analysis of the buffer is
simple: V+ = Vin and V- = Vout,
obviously. Rule I then says
that Vout = Vin. What have we
gained? We will return to this
in a moment. For now, lets
build the circuit on a
protoboard.

Figure 2.An op-amp buffer. Note: the inverting and


non-inverting inputs are not always drawn in this order
in circuit diagrams. Sometimes, to simplify the circuit
diagram V+ is drawn below V-. Either way, negative
feedback always connects the output to V- .

When building this circuit try to follow good practice: keep the wires as short
as reasonably possible and use sensible colour coding. You will need to
supply the op amp chip with power (+15V and -15V). To do this you require
two power supplies hooked together as shown in figure 3. Once you have
completed the wiring to the appropriate rails on your protoboard, switch on the
power supplies, set them to 15 Volts and use your DMM to check that the
correct voltages appear where you expect them to. Insert the op amp chip in
the protoboard so that it straddles one of the partitions between groups of 5
holes and make the power connections using small loops of wire from the
+15V and -15V rails that you have set up. You will instantly destroy the op-

Operational Amplifiers

1 Year Electronics : practical lab notes

3-Mar-15

amp if you wire the power connections backwards. This is no great tragedy,
as they cost less than 10p, but it will cost you time since it may take a while to

Figure 3. Configuration of power supplies for use with op-amp. Use the banana connectors
at the top of the protoboard and run short wires from these to the rails on the protoboard
(use the groups of holes that are connected all the way along the protoboard). You will
need a ground rail, a +15V rail and an -15V rail. Colour code e.g.: black=0V, yellow=+15V,
blue=-15V.

figure out that the op amp is dead. If you are unsure of your wiring, have a
demonstrator check your circuit before you apply power to the op amp.
Build the circuit in Fig. 2, with the aid of Fig. 3. Use e.g. black for
earth, yellow for +15V, blue for -15V. Use DMM+probe to confirm
15V appears where it should.
For now convince yourself that the buffer behaves as expected. Set up your
signal generator to give a 1V sinusoidal output at 1kHz (use the attenuator
push buttons on the signal generator). Apply it to your circuit as V+ in figure 2.
Monitor Vin with channel 1 of your scope and Vout using channel 2 of your
scope. Change the frequency, amplitude or shape of the signal you put into
the buffer and see if you still get Vout = Vin.
Set signal generator to 1V sine wave at 1kHz; connect as Vin.
Monitor this on ch1 and Vout on ch2 of your scope. Verify Vout=Vin
over a range of frequencies, and determine if it departs from this
behaviour, e.g., at very low or very high frequencies. "Verify"
and "determine" = record qualitatively/quantitatively in lab book.

Operational Amplifiers

1 Year Electronics : practical lab notes

3-Mar-15

Let us review what we have gained by using the buffer. Rule II says that the
non-inverting input draws no current, so the buffer has no effect on the output
of the signal generator with its 600 output impedance you should already
have observed this as one useful feature. But the op-amp also has an output
impedance that is only a fraction of an Ohm thanks again to the negative
feedback. So loading the output of the buffer should not have any
appreciable effect. Check this is true by connecting your resistance patch box
to the output of the buffer and changing its value to give a varying load. Does
the output change? Can you determine a limit on the value of the output
resistance of your buffer (<10 for instance)? [Note that if you reduce the
load resistance too far you might see the op-amp struggling to keep up,
resulting in a distorted signal!].
Add your resistor patch box as a load across Vout. Verify that the
buffer maintains Vout=Vin. Record Vout and Vin for a range of R,
including values for which buffer fails to perform ideally. Also
sketch non-ideal waveform(s).

Op-Amp Amplifiers
Two amplifier circuits built using an
op-amp are shown in figure 4, an
inverting and non-inverting amplifier.
Lets first calculate the gain of this
non-inverting amplifier. Note that
the arrangement of resistors R1 and
R2 form a potential divider, and thus
because of Rule II (no current into V-)
we can write that:
R1
V =
Vout
R1 + R 2
But Rule I then tells us that Vin=V+=VAs a result we can therefore
rearrange the above equation to give:

R + R2
R
Vout = 1
Vin = 1 + 2 Vin
R
R

In other words the voltage gain of the


circuit
is
given
by:

V
R
G = out = 1 + 2 .
Vin
R1

Figure 4. (a) A non-inverting amplifier.


(b) inverting amplifier.

We can now see the first advantage


of negative feedback. We take an op amp with a large but unknown gain G0
and simply by adding a couple of resistors we can create an amplifier circuit
with a known gain which we can set by choosing resistors of appropriate
value.
Build the non-inverting amplifier, using a fixed value of R1 = 1k and your
resistor patch box for R2=9k (what is the resulting gain?). Remember to
hook up the +15V and -15V power supplies. Test the amplifier with a

Operational Amplifiers

1 Year Electronics : practical lab notes

3-Mar-15

500mVp-p, 1kHz sine wave input. Set your scope up to display both the input
and output voltages. Does it work as advertised? Check the voltages at each
of the input terminals - are they what you expect?
Do a quick check of the behavior of the amplifier vs. frequency - is the gain
constant for all frequencies and does the phase shift always stay the same?
Does this amplifier have the same low output impedance as the buffer above?
You might also try triangle or square wave inputs instead of the sine wave
are they reproduced faithfully? What happens if you change Vin to 2Vp-p? Try
some other gain settings by changing R2 is the gain equation still valid and
how does the frequency response change? Youll probably find that in some
instances the op-amps start to depart from their ideal behavior!
Study the behaviour of your non-inverting amplifier for different
frequencies, recording the gain and phase of Vout relative to Vin.
You should also explore extreme frequencies and record
departures from non-ideal behaviour.
Depending on time try any/all of the following, recording results
in your lab-book:
Add a load resistance (patch box) across Vout. Does this
circuit have and maintain a low output resistance like the
buffer did?
Change the input signal to a triangle or square wave. Record
any departures from the expected gain and shape for
different frequencies.
Change Vin to 2V sine wave. Why do you think Vout doesn't
follow all portions of the sine wave?
Derive the gain for the inverting amplifier and verify your
prediction experimentally.

Operational Amplifiers