Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Electrical Engineering

First Advisor

Degang Chen


Operational amplifiers (op amps) are one of the most fundamental and widely used building blocks for analog and mixed-signal circuits and systems. As transistors’ feature size scales down in the deep submicron process, the short channel effects, high leakage current and reduced supply voltages make the design of op amps more challenging. In this dissertation, we present several methods to improve op amps’ DC gain, slew rate, power efficiency and current utilization efficiency (CUE).

A basic requirement for an op amp is high DC gain especially for high precision applications. We introduce a method to robustly improve op amps’ DC gain with negligible power and area overhead. The new DC gain enhancement method can be implemented based on the source degeneration circuit (SDC) or the flipped voltage attenuator (FVA). Compared to the FVA-based technique, the SDC-based technique is more suitable for those CMOS processes whose transistors’ threshold voltages are too low for the transistors in the FVA to work in weak or strong inversion regions. Otherwise, the FVA-based technique is recommended as this technique is more robust to devices’ random mismatch. A prototype op amp with the FVA-based technique is designed and fabricated in the IBM130nm process. The measurement and simulation results of the prototype verify that the technique largely enhances an op amp’s DC and is very robust over process, voltage and temperature variations.

Another important op amp requirement is high slew rate. In this regard, we introduce a method that greatly improves an op amp’s slew rate while still preserving its small signal performance by a well-defined turn-on condition. The performance of the introduced method is discussed in comparison with an existing adaptive biasing method that was widely used to enhance slew rate. The introduced method excels in several aspects. First, unlike the adaptive biasing method which degrades an op amp’ linearity, the introduced method is able to enhance linearity. Second, the proposed method improves an op amp’s slew rate by 2320% (vs. 780% by the adaptive method) with the power and area overhead of 2% and 1.2% (vs. 15% and 35% by the adaptive method). In addition, the proposed method improves the op amp’s total harmonic distortion (THD) by 6dB but the adaptive method degrades the THD by 12dB.

The ability to drive large capacitive loads is becoming critical for op amps in emerging applications such as liquid crystal display drivers. In this regard, we introduce a power efficient design of op amps that can drive large capacitive loads. The proposed method decouples the large and small signal performance, eliminates current waste in the preamp stages’ load circuits, and is not sensitive to devices’ random mismatches. Compared to the state-of-the-art methods, our design prototype in a CMOS 180nm process shows largely improved small and large signal figure of merits, equivalent to largely improved power efficiency for given small and large signal performance specifications.

Folded cascode amplifier (FCA) is a commonly used architecture for designing op amps, but a significant portion of supply current is wasted in the cascode stage. This not only reduces the current utilization efficiency (CUE), defined as the ratio of an FCA’s tail current to its total supply current, but also degrades the FCA’s gain, noise and offset. In this regard, we introduce a method to dramatically reduce a FCA’s cascode stage current without degrading the FCA’s settling performance. Compared to the existing methods, the proposed method effectively improves not only the CUE but also the settling performance of op amps.

Lastly, a prototype FCA, with the proposed performance enhancement techniques of gain, slew rate and CUE, is designed to demonstrate the compatibility of these techniques.

Copyright Owner

Bin Huang



File Format


File Size

191 pages