A dual-slope analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is a type of integrating ADC that converts an analog input voltage into a digital representation. It is known for its high accuracy and ability to eliminate noise and offset errors, making it suitable for applications that require precise measurements.
The operation of a dual-slope ADC involves the following steps:
Reset Phase: The ADC begins by resetting its integration capacitor to zero volts. This is typically done by discharging the capacitor through a switch or a reset circuit.
Integration Phase: During this phase, the ADC's input voltage is connected to the integration capacitor. The capacitor charges or discharges depending on whether the input voltage is positive or negative, respectively.
If the input voltage is positive, the capacitor starts charging linearly in the opposite direction, creating a negative ramp.
If the input voltage is negative, the capacitor starts discharging linearly in the positive direction, creating a positive ramp.
The integration phase continues for a fixed period, known as the integration time or conversion time.
Reference Voltage Phase: After the integration phase, a known reference voltage is applied to the integration capacitor in the opposite direction. The polarity of this voltage is such that it opposes the direction of the charge/discharge produced during the integration phase.
If the capacitor was charged during the integration phase (positive input voltage), the reference voltage will discharge the capacitor.
If the capacitor was discharged during the integration phase (negative input voltage), the reference voltage will charge the capacitor.
Counting Phase: During this phase, a counter is started, and its value is incremented until the integration capacitor voltage returns to zero volts (or a predetermined threshold close to zero). This time taken for the voltage to return to zero is measured and used to determine the digital representation of the analog input.
The counter value obtained in the counting phase is directly proportional to the magnitude of the analog input voltage. The longer the integration time, the more accurate the measurement because it allows more time for the capacitor to integrate the input voltage.
The dual-slope ADC's advantage lies in its ability to cancel out noise and offset errors effectively. Any noise or offset present in the system affects both the integration and reference phases equally, resulting in their cancellation during the counting phase. This ensures a high level of accuracy and noise immunity in the conversion process.
Dual-slope ADCs are commonly used in applications that require high precision, such as digital multimeters and data acquisition systems. However, they are not suitable for high-speed applications due to their relatively slow conversion speed compared to other ADC types.