Op Amp Input Impedance

Operational amplifier input impedance is important because it determines the loading on the previous stage.

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Operational amplifier circuit input impedance is important for a variety of reasons. It determines the loading on the previous stage, and also the impedance along with the lowest frequencies required determines the value of any coupling capacitor needed.

In view of this. It is necessary to understand the input impedance of the operational amplifier circuit, so that the required circuit design decisions can be made.

Op amp input impedance basics

When referring to the op amp input impedance it is necessary to state whether it is the basic chip itself or the circuit:

  • Op amp chip input impedance:   The input impedance of the basic integrated circuit is just the input impedance of the basic circuitry inside the chip. Some current is required to drive the base junctions of the input transistors, and this is why the input impedance is not infinite.
  • Op amp circuit input impedance:   Placing circuitry around an op amp alters its input impedance considerably. Both the external components and the way in which the feedback is applied affect the impedance. This means that dependent upon the way in which the feedback is applied and the components used can vary in overall circuit input impedance from low values up to very high values.

The level of input impedance for the basic chip can be obtained from the data sheets where the input impedance is quoted, often in terms of MΩ. Where very high input impedance levels are required, FET input op-amps may be used.

When looking at the integrated circuit data sheets, it is sometimes seen that the op amp input impedance is stated for differential and common-mode input cases. Typically current feedback op amps normally specify the impedance to ground at each input.

Equivalent elements of op amp input impedance

Input impedance elements for an op amp

From this it can be seen that there are three resistors giving rise to chip input impedance. While for most cases the op amp resistance will be seen, at higher frequencies this may become slightly reactive and is more correctly termed an impedance. Typically the input resistance is of the order of 100 kΩ to 100 MΩ or more. The shunt capacitance may only be a few picofarads, often around 20pF or so

Effect of feedback on input impedance

The circuit configuration and the level of feedback also have a major impact upon the input impedance of the whole op-amp circuit. It is not just the impedance of the amplifier chip itself.

The feedback has different effects, lowing or increasing the overall circuit impedance or resistance dependent upon the way it is applied.

The two main examples of feedback changing the input impedance or input resistance of an op-amp circuit are the inverting and no-inverting op-amp circuits.

Inverting op-amp circuit input impedance

The inverting amplifier using op-amp chips is a very easy form of amplifier to use. Requiring just two resistors, it provides an easy amplifier circuit to produce.

Basic inverting operational amplifier circuit

Basic inverting operational amplifier circuit

The basic inverting amp circuit is shown above. In order that the circuit can operate correctly, the difference between the inverting and non-inverting inputs must be very small - the gain of the chip is very high and therefore for a small output voltage, the difference between the two inputs is small. This means that inverting input must be at virtually the same potential as the non-inverting one, i.e. at ground.

As a result the input impedance of this op amp circuit is equal to R1. Normally this is relatively low and may be of the order of 1 kΩ or thereabouts dependent upon the actual circuit values chosen. However this circuit does have the advantage of the virtual earth point at the inverting input of the op amp IC itself and this can enable it to be used as a virtual earth mixer.

Non-inverting op-amp circuit input impedance

The non-inverting amplifier offers the opportunity of providing a very high input impedance level.

Basic non-inverting operational amplifier circuit

Basic non-inverting operational amplifier circuit

it is found that the op amp input impedance for the circuit is at least the that between non-inverting and inverting inputs, which is typically 1 MΩ to 10 TΩ, plus the impedance of the path from the inverting input to ground i.e. R1 in parallel with R2. it is this circuit that is used when requiring very high levels of input impedance.

Operational amplifier input impedance is a key issue for the design of any overall electronic circuit using op amps. The input impedance needs to be sufficiently high not to degrade the performance of the previous stages. Accordingly there is a balance between the advantages of the inverting amplifier with its virtual earth mixing capability and simplicity, but low input impedance against the much high input impedance of the non-inverting amplifier.

Often the choice is down to individual preference, but either way the input impedance must be taken into account, whether high or low.

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