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Operational Amplifiers (Op-amps)

Our Take

Operational amplifiers, or op-amps, are a beautiful thing. They provide relatively high amplification with relatively low noise or distortion, are pretty darn cheap, flexible in their setups and applications, and they’re easy to use. These characteristics make op-amps extremely common in design and in real life.

Book Definition

A type of amplifier that has very high voltage gain, very high input impedance, very low output impedance, and good rejection of common-mode signals.

Electronic Devices : Conventional Current Version, 9th Edition by Thomas L. Floyd

An active circuit element designed to perform mathematical operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, differentiation, and integration.

Fundamentals of Electric Circuits, 5th Edition by Charles K. Alexander and Matthew N. O. Sadiku


An operational amplifier (often op-amp or opamp) is a DC-coupled high-gain electronic voltage amplifier with a differential input and, usually, a single-ended output.[1] In this configuration, an op-amp produces an output potential (relative to circuit ground) that is typically hundreds of thousands of times larger than the potential difference between its input terminals.Operational amplifiers had their origins in analog computers, where they were used to perform mathematical operations in many linear, non-linear, and frequency-dependent circuits.

The popularity of the op-amp as a building block in analog circuits is due to its versatility. By using negative feedback, the characteristics of an op-amp circuit, its gain, input and output impedance, bandwidth etc. are determined by external components and have little dependence on temperature coefficients or engineering tolerance in the op-amp itself.

Op-amps are among the most widely used electronic devices today, being used in a vast array of consumer, industrial, and scientific devices. Many standard IC op-amps cost only a few cents in moderate production volume; however, some integrated or hybrid operational amplifiers with special performance specifications may cost over US$100 in small quantities.[2] Op-amps may be packaged as components or used as elements of more complex integrated circuits.

The op-amp is one type of differential amplifier. Other types of differential amplifier include the fully differential amplifier (similar to the op-amp, but with two outputs), the instrumentation amplifier (usually built from three op-amps), the isolation amplifier (similar to the instrumentation amplifier, but with tolerance to common-mode voltages that would destroy an ordinary op-amp), and negative-feedback amplifier (usually built from one or more op-amps and a resistive feedback network).

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