Flash ADC

Posted on Feb 7, 2014

Also called the parallel A/D converter, this circuit is the simplest to understand. It is formed of a series of comparators, each one comparing the input signal to a unique reference voltage. The comparator outputs connect to the inputs of a priority encoder circuit, which then produces a binary output. The following illustration shows a 3-bit fla

Flash ADC
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sh ADC circuit: Vref is a stable reference voltage provided by a precision voltage regulator as part of the converter circuit, not shown in the schematic. As the analog input voltage exceeds the reference voltage at each comparator, the comparator outputs will sequentially saturate to a high state. The priority encoder generates a binary number based on the highest-order active input, ignoring all other active inputs. For this particular application, a regular priority encoder with all its inherent complexity isn`t necessary. Due to the nature of the sequential comparator output states (each comparator saturating "high" in sequence from lowest to highest), the same "highest-order-input selection" effect may be realized through a set of Exclusive-OR gates, allowing the use of a simpler, non-priority encoder: Not only is the flash converter the simplest in terms of operational theory, but it is the most efficient of the ADC technologies in terms of speed, being limited only in comparator and gate propagation delays. Unfortunately, it is the most component-intensive for any given number of output bits. This three-bit flash ADC requires eight comparators. A four-bit version would require 16 comparators. With each additional output bit, the number of required comparators doubles. Considering that eight bits is generally considered the minimum necessary for any practical ADC (256 comparators needed!), the flash methodology...

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