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## What is an op-amp feedback circuit?

As mentioned elsewhere, an operational amplifier is a differential voltage amplifier circuit that has very large voltage gains ( ), near infinite input resistance, and near zero output resistance. This means that we can model the op-amp as a dependent voltage source controlled by a voltage. The circuit model for the operational amplifier is shown in figure 8. The idealized model shown in figure 8 is a good approximation for the real-life'' op-amp's behavior. In other words, the op-amp is a special circuit that has been specially engineered to behave like its idealized circuit model. We can therefore use op-amp models in a reliable manner to predict the behavior of op-amp circuits, with high confidence that our analytical predictions will hold true in real-life. This means the op-amp is a useful building block in analog circuit design.

The fact that the operational amplifier has an extremely large voltage gain is very useful when we connect the op-amp in a feedback circuit. In particular let's consider the inverting feedback connection shown in figure 9. This circuit shows the positive terminal of an independent source connected to the inverting terminal of the op-amp through a resistor . A portion of the output voltage, is applied to the inverting input terminal through the voltage divider formed by resistors and . In other words, a portion of is fed back into the op-amp's input, hence the name feedback circuit''. To analyze this circuit, we want to derive the relationship between the input voltage and the output voltage . In particular, we note that where is the voltage from the negative terminal to ground. Because is large, on the order of , we know that if is around 1 volt, that must be micro-volt. This is a tremendously small voltage and it means that the negative terminal of the op-amp is very close to being zero volts (ground). So we may assume that is equal to zero volts. We sometimes refer to this as the virtual ground assumption.

Under the virtual ground assumption, we know that the current through resistor must be . We also know that the current, , through the feedback resistor, , must be . Moreover, we know that the input resistance of the op-amp is extremely large so that the current going into the negative terminal is also nearly zero. By Kirchoff's law, we can therefore conclude that . Because the current going through both resistors is nearly the same, we can immediately see that which simplies to In other words, the output voltage is proporitional to the input voltage with the proportionality constant (also called the voltage gain) of .

Note that the above analysis is approximate in the sense that we used the high gain of the op-amp to assume that the negative terminal was at ground (the virtual-ground assumption) and we used the high-input resistance of the op-amp to show that the current through and were equal to each other. It is because of these approximations that we find that the voltage gain of the inverting feedback connection is insensitive of the op-amp's gain.

Finally note that the preceding analysis can also be used with slight modifications to derive the voltage gain for the non-inverting op-amp feedback circuit shown in figure 7. As part of the pre-lab, you will need to do this analysis.   Next: What is a comparator? Up: Background Previous: What is a buffering
Michael Lemmon 2009-02-01