AD8429 gain switching

For a data acquisition frontend we need an instrumentation amplifier with wide bandwidth, low distortion, and low noise. We are considering the AD8429. The frontend needs to capture signals with +/-10V, 1V, and 100mV full-scale range, requiring to switch the AD8429 gain setting resistor.

PCB space contraints do not allow to use relays as switches, so we are considering analog switches as shown in CN0146. Unfortunately the suitable analog switches with low Rds_on and low delta-Rds do have large input and output capacitances (e.g. ADG1402: Cd_off = 41pF, Cs_off = 36pF). If such a switch is connected to the RG-terminals these capacitances become part of the feedback network and reduce the feedback for the higher frequencies, resulting in a frequency-dependent rise of gain. In case of the AD8429 simulation and calculation show an 18dB peak at ~9MHz for gain=1, and a 5dB peak at gain=10. We are afraid these peaks, esp. at gain=1, will cause problems with increased HF-noise, RFI immunity and stability. Since we cannot access the internal feedback resistors, we see no chance to compensate the parasitic capacitance of the analog switches.

We cannot use an instrumentation amp with lower GBW (which will "mask" the gain rise) because this would significantly increase distortion on higher input frequencies. Also the AD8253 with built-in gain switches is not a suitable alternative because of its higher input noise.

Has anyone encountered (and hopefully solved) a similar problem?

Many thanks, Bdolf

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  • Hi Bdolf,

    With regards to your comment:

    "However, even expensive matched resistor pairs will limit the CMR to 80dB at best, and require manual trimming to achieve the 100dB or more of an integrated instrumentation amp."

    This is absolutely true. We do this trimming ourselves inside the IC to get high common-mode rejection, but we do it in our diff-amps too. If you consider the AD8271, the resistors are already trimmed, and the B grade guarantees 80dB CMRR. I'm assuming you'll be using G=10 for your 1V range and G=100 for your 100mV range. Assuming perfect matching between the input amplifiers, you would get overall CMRR of 100dB for G=10 and 120dB for G=100. But because the first stage is not going to be perfect, you may not get there, but it is difficult to predict how high it is going to get. And you can't just base it off the CMRR spec on the Op Amps, but that Op Amp spec does correlate to overall CMRR. And if you look at AD8599, CMRR is guaranteed to be >115dB over temperature.

    As Harry has suggested, having different amplifiers for each gain can be an option, but I would like to point out something. In-Amps like AD8429 will increase their input current when the first stage is overloaded. Let's just take the G=100 and G=1 as example. You can have 10V across the G=1 (no RG) amplifier but the same will appear across the G=100 with RG=60. If you look at figure 46 on the AD8429's data sheet, you'll see that this voltage minus 2 diode drops will appear across RG, so we're talking about ~150mA flowing into one input and out of the other. If you had enough current from your source, this condition would damage the In-Amp; if you hadn't, it would clamp the input signal.

    So, what to do? You could add current-limiting resistors to protect the inputs of the high gain amplifier, but this would increase the noise for low signals, which goes against your wishes. You can add external clamping diodes as shown on page 17 in the data sheet, which lowers the noise, but not the input current (and can introduce errors due to leakage). You could buffer the inputs, which doesn't solve the noise problem, but you'll need to balance the linearity of the previous stage due to loading with the noise... or you can go for a more complicated current-limiting circuit per high gain channel...

    What you might be able to do is to mux the inputs into the appropriate amplifier and then de-mux them. As with any solution, you still have potential for overloading (wrong signal, wrong channel), but you don't have the high gain channel hurting your low gain channel at the same time, which allows another degree of freedom in your design.

    You will have to consider overloading conditions if you roll up your own PGIA too. In that case you have even more freedom to prevent/improve overload recovery but that is at the expense of complexity.

    I hope this helps.

    Regards,

    Gustavo

Reply
  • Hi Bdolf,

    With regards to your comment:

    "However, even expensive matched resistor pairs will limit the CMR to 80dB at best, and require manual trimming to achieve the 100dB or more of an integrated instrumentation amp."

    This is absolutely true. We do this trimming ourselves inside the IC to get high common-mode rejection, but we do it in our diff-amps too. If you consider the AD8271, the resistors are already trimmed, and the B grade guarantees 80dB CMRR. I'm assuming you'll be using G=10 for your 1V range and G=100 for your 100mV range. Assuming perfect matching between the input amplifiers, you would get overall CMRR of 100dB for G=10 and 120dB for G=100. But because the first stage is not going to be perfect, you may not get there, but it is difficult to predict how high it is going to get. And you can't just base it off the CMRR spec on the Op Amps, but that Op Amp spec does correlate to overall CMRR. And if you look at AD8599, CMRR is guaranteed to be >115dB over temperature.

    As Harry has suggested, having different amplifiers for each gain can be an option, but I would like to point out something. In-Amps like AD8429 will increase their input current when the first stage is overloaded. Let's just take the G=100 and G=1 as example. You can have 10V across the G=1 (no RG) amplifier but the same will appear across the G=100 with RG=60. If you look at figure 46 on the AD8429's data sheet, you'll see that this voltage minus 2 diode drops will appear across RG, so we're talking about ~150mA flowing into one input and out of the other. If you had enough current from your source, this condition would damage the In-Amp; if you hadn't, it would clamp the input signal.

    So, what to do? You could add current-limiting resistors to protect the inputs of the high gain amplifier, but this would increase the noise for low signals, which goes against your wishes. You can add external clamping diodes as shown on page 17 in the data sheet, which lowers the noise, but not the input current (and can introduce errors due to leakage). You could buffer the inputs, which doesn't solve the noise problem, but you'll need to balance the linearity of the previous stage due to loading with the noise... or you can go for a more complicated current-limiting circuit per high gain channel...

    What you might be able to do is to mux the inputs into the appropriate amplifier and then de-mux them. As with any solution, you still have potential for overloading (wrong signal, wrong channel), but you don't have the high gain channel hurting your low gain channel at the same time, which allows another degree of freedom in your design.

    You will have to consider overloading conditions if you roll up your own PGIA too. In that case you have even more freedom to prevent/improve overload recovery but that is at the expense of complexity.

    I hope this helps.

    Regards,

    Gustavo

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