Have You Ever Seen an Ideal Op-Amp?

Jason Sachs April 30, 2012

Somewhere, along with unicorns and the Loch Ness Monster, lies a small colony of ideal op-amps. Op-amp is short for operational amplifier, and we start our education on them by learning about these mythical beasts, which have the following properties:

  • Infinite gain
  • Infinite input impedance
  • Zero output impedance

And on top of it all, they will do whatever it takes to change their output in order to make their two inputs equal.

But they don't exist. Real op-amps have...

Hot Fun in the Silicon: Thermal Testing with Power Semiconductors

Jason Sachs April 21, 2012

Here's a trick that is useful the next time you do thermal testing with your MOSFETs or IGBTs.

Thermal testing?!

Yes, that's right. It's important to make sure your power transistors don't overheat. In the datasheet, you will find some information that you can use to estimate how hot the junction inside the IC will get.

Let's look at an example. Here's a page from the IRF7739 DirectFET datasheet. I like this datasheet because it has almost all the thermal stuff on one page,...

10 More (Obscure) Circuit Components You Should Know

Jason Sachs February 5, 20121 comment

The interest in my previous article on obscure but useful electronics parts, "10 Circuit Components You Should Know" was encouraging enough that I thought I would write a followup. So here are another 10:

1. "Ideal Diode" controllers

Load-sharing circuits use diodes tied together at their cathode terminal to take the most positive voltage among the sources and connect it to a load. Works great: you have a DC/DC power supply, a battery, and a solar cell, and it will use whichever output is...

Oscilloscope Dreams

Jason Sachs January 15, 20125 comments

My coworkers and I recently needed a new oscilloscope. I thought I would share some of the features I look for when purchasing one.

When I was in college in the early 1990's, our oscilloscopes looked like this:

Now the cathode ray tubes have almost all been replaced by digital storage scopes with color LCD screens, and they look like these:

Oscilloscopes are basically just fancy expensive boxes for graphing voltage vs. time. They span a wide range of features and prices:...

Stairway to Thévenin

Jason Sachs December 31, 2011

This article was inspired by a recent post on reddit asking for help on Thévenin and Norton equivalent circuits.

(With apologies to Mr. Thévenin, the rest of the e's that follow will remain unaccented.)

I still remember my introductory circuits class on the subject, roughly as follows:

(NOTE: Do not get scared of what you see in the rest of this section. We're going to point out the traditional approach for teaching linear equivalent circuits first. If you have...

10 Circuit Components You Should Know

Jason Sachs November 28, 20111 comment

Chefs have their miscellaneous ingredients, like condensed milk, cream of tartar, and xanthan gum. As engineers, we too have quite our pick of circuits, and a good circuit designer should know what's out there. Not just the bread and butter ingredients like resistors, capacitors, op-amps, and comparators, but the miscellaneous "gadget" components as well.

Here are ten circuit components you may not have heard of, but which are occasionally quite useful.

1. Multifunction gate (

Analog-to-Digital Confusion: Pitfalls of Driving an ADC

Jason Sachs November 19, 20115 comments

Imagine the following scenario:You're a successful engineer (sounds nice, doesn't it!) working on a project with three or four circuit boards. More than even you can handle, so you give one of them over to your coworker Wayne to design. Wayne graduated two years ago from college. He's smart, he's a quick learner, and he's really fast at designing schematics and laying out circuit boards. It's just that sometimes he takes some shortcuts... but in this case the circuit board is just something...

Complexity in Consumer Electronics Considered Harmful

Jason Sachs October 2, 20111 comment

I recently returned from a visit to my grandmother, who lives in an assisted living community, and got to observe both her and my frustration first-hand with a new TV. This was a Vizio flatscreen TV that was fairly easy to set up, and the picture quality was good. But here's what the remote control looks like:

You will note:

  • the small lettering (the number buttons are just under 1/4 inch in diameter)
  • a typeface chosen for marketing purposes (matching Vizio's "futuristic" corporate...

Which MOSFET topology?

Jason Sachs September 2, 20119 comments

A recent electronics.StackExchange question brings up a good topic for discussion. Let's say you have a power supply and a 2-wire load you want to be able to switch on and off from the power supply using a MOSFET. How do you choose which circuit topology to choose? You basically have four options, shown below:

From left to right, these are:

High-side switch, N-channel MOSFET High-side switch, P-channel MOSFET Low-side switch, N-channel...

Thermistor signal conditioning: Dos and Don'ts, Tips and Tricks

Jason Sachs June 16, 201114 comments

In an earlier blog entry,  I mentioned this circuit for thermistor signal conditioning:

It is worth a little more explanation on thermistor signal conditioning; it's something that's often done poorly, whereas it's among the easiest applications for signal conditioning.

The basic premise here is that there are two resistors in a voltage divider: Rth is the thermistor, and Rref is a reference resistor. Here Rref is either R3 alone, or R3 || R4, depending on the gain...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part II: libgf2 and Primitive Polynomials

Jason Sachs July 17, 2017

Last time, we looked at the basics of LFSRs and finite fields formed by the quotient ring \( GF(2)[x]/p(x) \).

LFSRs can be described by a list of binary coefficients, sometimes referred as the polynomial, since they correspond directly to the characteristic polynomial of the quotient ring.

Today we’re going to look at how to perform certain practical calculations in these finite fields. I maintain a Python library on bitbucket called...

Linear Feedback Shift Registers for the Uninitiated, Part III: Multiplicative Inverse, and Blankinship's Algorithm

Jason Sachs September 9, 2017

Last time we talked about basic arithmetic operations in the finite field \( GF(2)[x]/p(x) \) — addition, multiplication, raising to a power, shift-left and shift-right — as well as how to determine whether a polynomial \( p(x) \) is primitive. If a polynomial \( p(x) \) is primitive, it can be used to define an LFSR with coefficients that correspond to the 1 terms in \( p(x) \), that has maximal length of \( 2^N-1 \), covering all bit patterns except the all-zero...

Stability or insanity

Tim Wescott May 17, 20161 comment

I've just spent over two weeks getting ready to do my next video.  It was a combination of one of those vast underestimations one occasionally makes, combined with falling into a bit of an obsession.

I am, at this point, not only wondering if it was worth it, but questioning my sanity in carrying on even when the going went beyond tough to just plain crazy.

At any rate, a good video needs a visual aid, and I decided that my video needed to demonstrate stability with a pendulum....

The Art of Debugging

Mike December 11, 20151 comment

Debugging electronics is similar to any technological process.  In theory we know how things are supposed to work, in reality they don't behave as expected.  The challenge of engineering boils down to making things work, and debugging is the fundamental task we use to go from lumps of sand to picosecond accurate switching networks.  Debugging is an art that requires a lot of time to learn.  Like any skill, the more we work at it, the better we become.  

The first...

The New Forum is LIVE!

Stephane Boucher February 18, 20161 comment

After months of hard word, I am very excited to introduce to you the new forum interface.  

Here are the key features:

1- Easily add images to a post by drag & dropping the images in the editor

2- Easily attach files to a post by drag & dropping the files in the editor

3- Add latex equations to a post and they will be rendered with Mathjax (tutorial)

4- Add a code snippet and surround the code with

Feedback Controllers - Making Hardware with Firmware. Part 2. Ideal Model Examples

Steve Maslen August 24, 2017
Developing and Validating Simulation Models

This article will describe models for simulating the systems and controllers for the hardware emulation application described in Part 1 of the series.

Feedback Controllers - Making Hardware with Firmware. Part 3. Sampled Data Aspects

Steve Maslen September 9, 2017
Some Design and Simulation Considerations for Sampled-Data Controllers

This article will continue to look at some aspects of the controllers and electronics needed to create emulated physical circuits with real-world connectivity and will look at the issues that arise in sampled-data controllers compared to continuous-domain controllers. As such, is not intended as an introduction to sampled-data systems.

Series circuit - 3 LEDs

Henryk Gasperowicz September 24, 20131 comment

How does it work???



Working of the first solid state amplifier

Tapas Pandey December 1, 2015

                                         Fig. 1. One of the most popular operational amplifier 

Whenever a circuit designer thinks about amplifier, the first think that pops up in his mind is that of operational amplifier (Op-Amp). The answer is simple op-amps are beautiful (literally), you just have to set the gain of the op-amps with pair of resistors and you are good to...

Feedback Controllers - Making Hardware with Firmware. Part 5. Some FPGA Aspects.

Steve Maslen November 14, 2017
This part of the on-going series of articles looks at a variety of aspects concerning the FPGA device which provides the high-speed maths capability for the low-latency controller and the arbitrary circuit generator application. In due course a complete specification along with  application  examples will be maintained on the project website here.