Operational Amplifiers
Why Are Operational Amplifiers Widely Used?
Facts About Operational Amplifiers
Using Operational Amplifiers
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Why Are Operational Amplifiers Widely Used?

        This lesson is the first lesson on operational amplifiers, or op-amps as they are often called.

        Operational amplifiers are widely used in signal processing circuits, control circuits, and instrumentation.  Of all analog integrated circuits, the operational amplifier is the analog integrated circuit which has the most sales and is the most widely used in the widest variety of electronic circuits.  If you are an electrical engineer, you will probably encounter more operational amplifiers than any other integrated circuit device.  It's an important component for electrical engineers who design circuits using them and to all other kinds of engineers who use measurement and control circuits that contain operational amplifiers.

Where do you find Op-Amps?

        Operational amplifiers are used in many places including:

        The operational amplifier is a versatile component that can do many things in measurement, signal processing and control.  That versatility is the largest reason that you find so many operational amplifiers being used!

Your Goals

        Your goal for this lesson should be:

  Given an operational amplifier you want to use,
  Be able to connect the positive and negative power supplies correctly.
  Be able to locate the inverting and non-inverting input terminals.

The 741 - A Typical Operational Amplifer

        This is a computer photograph of an operational amplifier.  It's often referred to as an operational amplifier.  We've called this module "The World of Op-Amps" because these creatures can be found almost everywhere you find electronic circuits.  Here is a typical operational amplifier on a circuit board.

        This particular operational amplifier is an integrated circuit.  Most operational amplifiers today are integrated circuits, even power operational amplifiers that can be used to drive small motors.  Of course the actual size is smaller than the picture above!

        Look carefully at the operational amplifier.  It's important to notice that there is a notch (sometimes a circular depression) on one end (the "top" of the chip in the picture) of the operational amplifier.  The pin shown below the notch is pin 1, and the one above is pin 8.  They're numbered counter clockwise around the chip.    Here is a drawing of the pinout

Above is a drawing of the pin-out.

What is an Op-Amp Really?

        An operational amplifier is a high gain, differential, voltage amplifier.

When Did Operational Amplifiers Arrive On The Scene?

        Operational amplifiers have been around since the late '40s or early '50s.  There have been a number of influential and interesting characters that worked with operational amplifiers including George Philbrick and Bob Widlar.

Using Operational Amplifiers

        If you want to use an operational amplifier, you will need to know several things.

        Examine the pinout for the chip.  Normally, the chip will either be inserted in a circuit board, or wired into a printed circuit board.  In either case, to power the chip you need to make two connections:         Every operational amplifier will have some power supply connections.  Often they are not shown on the circuit digram for a circuit you are designing.  When necessary they are shown as below.  Here, Vcc is the positive supply voltage.  Usually,  Vcc  is 12 to 15 volts.  A negative supply is usually needed also, although there are operational amplifers on the martket that operate well just from a positive supply.  The negative supply,  -Vcc, is usually in the range from -12 to -15 volts.  When two supplies are used, they are the same voltage and of opposite sign in almost all cases.

        Often an integrated cirtcuit chip has a single operational amplifer.  The symbol for such an operational amplifier is shown below.  There are three voltages associated with this symbol.  Each voltage here is measured with respect to ground.

The chip diagram shows how an operational amplifier is connected internally in a typical 741 integrated circuit chip.  Notice that the voltages noted above are the actual connections you will need to make to use the amplifier.  They are not part of the power supply circuitry which is separate.

        Remember that the operational amplifier is a high gain, differential voltage amplifier.  In this case the output voltage is a very large multiple of the input voltage.  The multiplying factor is called the gain.  For a 741 operational amplifier, the gain is at least 100,000 and can be more than a million (1,000,000).  That's an important fact you'll need to remember as you put the 741 into a circuit.

        You don't need to know much more about wiring the operational amplifier or the internal connections to the amplifier.  There are some minor adjustment connections you could make, but you're probably OK for now.

        You still need to learn about operational amplifier circuits.  That's the next lesson, and you're ready to move on to it.  The lesson is the one on Inverting Amplifiers.  Click here to go to that lesson.