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Opamp Configurations - Window comparator

The simple comparator circuit has one inherent problem: it can only tell us if one of the input voltages is higher than the other.

But what if you needed a circuit that tells us if a signal is within a range of values? you would need a circuit that tells you if the signal is higher than a minimum and if it also is lower than the maximum. The problem itself hints at the solution.

For a window comparator, we need one simple comparator set up just like the previous circuit: use the non inverting as reference and the inverting input as the signal entry. This comparator will set the maximum; if the signal goes higher than the reference the output will go negative, signaling an out of range (if we consider positive to be in range).

Another comparator is set by switching the reference and signal inputs, connecting the reference to the inverting input and the signal to the non inverting. If the signal is lower than the reference, the output will go negative, again indicating an out of range; this comparator sets the minimum.

When both opamp outputs go positive, it means that the signal is below the maximum and above the minimum, in other words, the signal is within the window of voltages you have defined.

There's one thing to consider with this configuration, when the signal is out of range, one of the opamps will go full negative (virtual connection to negative supply) and the other will be full positive (virtual connection to positive supply). This causes a short circuit condition that needs to be avoided as it could cause damage to the circuit or the supplies.

One way to protect from this condition is use diodes configured as the logic AND gate. This simply means to connect two diodes at the opamp outputs, connect both their anodes together and to the positive supply via a high value resistor.

What this does is that only when both opamps are at full positive (diodes' conduction blocked, basically disconnecting the opamps from the rest of the circuit) will the output be positive, held by the high value resistor.

When either opamp goes negative, the diode connected to it will be forward biased, basically connecting the output to ground; the other opamp is blocked from connecting to the output by the reverse biased diode (positive opamp output connected to cathode, negative to anode) and no short circuit condition occurs.

Welcome To Electronic Circuits For Beginners!

All circuits included here are recommended to be assembled in printed circuit boards. Printed circuit boards, or PCB's increase the circuit reliability and mechanical stability.

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Led chaser circuit

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Simple power supply

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