# Pole splitting

In electronics, **pole splitting** is a form of frequency compensation used in an electronic amplifier to increase the stability of the amplifier and improve its step response at the cost of decreased speed.^{[Note 1]} By introduction of a capacitor between the input and output sides of the amplifier, the amplifier pole lowest in frequency (usually an input pole) moves to a lower frequency, and a pole higher in frequency (usually an output pole) moves to a still higher frequency: hence the name *pole splitting*.^{[1]}^{[2]}^{[3]}

## Example of pole splitting

This example shows two results of introduction of the *compensation capacitor* denoted as C_{C} in the amplifier of the figure to the right: first, it causes the lowest frequency pole of the amplifier to move still lower in frequency and second, it causes the higher pole to move higher in frequency.^{[Note 2]} The amplifier in the figure has a low frequency pole due to the added input resistance *R _{i}* and capacitance

*C*, with the time constant

_{i}*C*(

_{i}*R*). This pole is moved down in frequency by the Miller effect. The amplifier is given a high frequency output pole by addition of the load resistance

_{A}// R_{i}*R*and capacitance

_{L}*C*, with the time constant

_{L}*C*(

_{L}*R*). The upward movement of the high-frequency pole occurs because the Miller-amplified compensation capacitor

_{o}// R_{L}*C*alters the frequency dependence of the output voltage divider.

_{C}The first objective, to show the lowest pole moves down in frequency, is established using the same approach as the Miller's theorem article. Following the procedure described in the article on Miller effect, the amplifier circuit is transformed to that of the next figure, which is electrically equivalent. Application of Kirchhoff's current law to the input side of the transformed circuit determines the input voltage to the ideal op amp as a function of the applied signal voltage , namely,

which exhibits a roll-off with frequency beginning at *f _{1}* where

which introduces notation for the time constant of the lowest pole. This frequency is lower than the initial low frequency of the amplifier, *f _{0}* say, which for

*C*= 0 F is:

_{C}Turning to the second objective, showing the higher pole moves still higher in frequency, it is necessary to look at the output side of the circuit, which contributes a second factor to the overall gain, and additional frequency dependence. The voltage is determined by the gain of the ideal op amp inside the amplifier as

Using this relation and applying Kirchhoff's current law to the output side of the circuit determines the load voltage as a function of the voltage at the input to the ideal op amp as:

This expression is combined with the gain factor found earlier for the input side of the circuit to obtain the overall gain as

This gain formula appears to show a simple two-pole response with two time constants. (It also exhibits a zero in the numerator but, assuming the amplifier gain *A _{v}* is large, this zero is important only at frequencies too high to matter in this discussion , so the numerator can be approximated as unity.) However, although the amplifier does have a two-pole behavior, the two time-constants are more complicated than the above expression suggests because the Miller capacitance contains a buried frequency dependence that has no importance at low frequencies, but has considerable effect at high frequencies. That is, assuming the output

*R-C*product,

*C*(

_{L}*R*), corresponds to a frequency well above the low frequency pole, the accurate form of the Miller capacitance must be used, rather than the Miller approximation. According to the article on Miller effect, the Miller capacitance is given by:

_{o}// R_{L}(For a positive Miller capacitance, *A _{v}* is negative.) Upon substitution of this result into the gain expression and collecting terms, the gain is rewritten as:

with *D _{ω}* given by a quadratic in ω, namely:

Every quadratic has two factors, and this expression looks simpler if it is rewritten as

where and are combinations of the capacitances and resistances in the formula for *D _{ω}*.

^{[Note 3]}They correspond to the time constants of the two poles of the amplifier. One or the other time constant is the longest; suppose is the longest time constant, corresponding to the lowest pole, and suppose >> . (Good step response requires >> . See Selection of C

_{C}below.)

At low frequencies near the lowest pole of this amplifier, ordinarily the linear term in ω is more important than the quadratic term, so the low frequency behavior of *D _{ω}* is:

where now *C _{M}* is redefined using the Miller approximation as the ω=0 limit of the previous expression for the Miller capacitance

*C*found above:

_{M}On this basis is determined, provided >> . Because *C _{M}* is large, the time constant is much larger than its original value of

*C*(

_{i}*R*).

_{A}// R_{i}^{[Note 4]}

At high frequencies the quadratic term becomes important. Assuming the above result for is valid, the second time constant, the position of the high frequency pole, is found from the quadratic term in *D _{ω}* as

Substituting in this expression the quadratic coefficient corresponding to the product along with the estimate for , an estimate for the position of the second pole is found:

and because *C _{M}* is large, it seems is reduced in size from its original value

*C*(

_{L}*R*//

_{o}*R*); that is, the higher pole has moved still higher in frequency because of

_{L}*C*.

_{C}^{[Note 5]}

In short, introduction of capacitor *C _{C}* moved the low pole lower and the high pole higher, so the term

**pole splitting**seems a good description.

### Selection of C_{C}

What value is a good choice for *C _{C}*? For general purpose use, traditional design (often called

*dominant-pole*or

*single-pole compensation*) requires the amplifier gain to drop at 20 dB/decade from the corner frequency down to 0 dB gain, or even lower.

^{[4]}

^{[5]}With this design the amplifier is stable and has near-optimal step response even as a unity gain voltage buffer. A more aggressive technique is two-pole compensation.

^{[6]}

^{[7]}

The way to position *f*_{2} to obtain the design is shown in the adjacent Bode plot. At the lowest pole *f*_{1}, the Bode gain plot breaks slope to fall at 20 dB/decade. The aim is to maintain the 20 dB/decade slope all the way down to zero dB, and taking the ratio of the desired drop in gain (in dB) of 20 log_{10} *A _{v}* to the required change in frequency (on a log frequency scale

^{[Note 6]}) of ( log

_{10}

*f*

_{2}− log

_{10}

*f*

_{1}) = log

_{10}(

*f*

_{2}/

*f*

_{1}) the slope of the segment between

*f*

_{1}and

*f*

_{2}is:

- Slope per decade of frequency

which is 20 dB/decade provided *f _{2} = A_{v} f_{1}* . If

*f*is not this large, the second break in the Bode plot that occurs at the second pole interrupts the plot before the gain drops to 0 dB with consequent lower stability and degraded step response.

_{2}The Bode plot shows that to obtain the correct gain dependence on frequency, the second pole is at least a factor *A _{v}* higher in frequency than the first pole. The gain is reduced a bit by the voltage dividers at the input and output of the amplifier, so with corrections to

*A*for the voltage dividers at input and output the

_{v}**pole-ratio condition**for good step response becomes:

Using the approximations for the time constants developed above,

or

which provides a quadratic equation to determine an appropriate value for *C _{C}*.

The figure shows an example using this equation. At low values of gain this example amplifier satisfies the pole-ratio condition without compensation (that is, in the figure the compensation capacitor *C _{C}* is small at low gain), but as gain increases, a compensation capacitance rapidly becomes necessary (that is, in the figure the compensation capacitor

*C*increases rapidly with gain) because the necessary pole ratio increases with gain. For still larger gain, the necessary

_{C}*C*drops with increasing gain because the Miller amplification of

_{C}*C*, which increases with gain (see the Miller approximation above), allows a smaller value for

_{C}*C*.

_{C}To provide more safety margin for design uncertainties, often *A _{v}* is increased to two or three times

*A*on the right side of this equation.

_{v}^{[Note 7]}See Sansen

^{[3]}or Huijsing

^{[5]}and article on step response.

### Slew rate

The above is a small-signal analysis. However, when large signals are used, the need to charge and discharge the compensation capacitor adversely affects the amplifier slew rate; in particular, the response to an input ramp signal is limited by the need to charge *C _{C}*.

## Notes

- ↑ That is, the rise time is selected to be the fastest possible consistent with low overshoot and ringing.
- ↑ Although this example appears very specific, the associated mathematical analysis is very much used in circuit design.
- ↑
The sum of the time constants is the coefficient of the term linear in jω and the product of the time constants is the coefficient of the quadratic term in (jω)
^{2}. - ↑
The expression for
*τ*differs a little from (_{1}*C*) (_{M}+C_{i}*R*//_{A}*R*) as found initially for_{i}*f*, but the difference is minor assuming the load capacitance is not so large that it controls the low frequency response instead of the Miller capacitance._{1} - ↑ As an aside, the higher the high-frequency pole is made in frequency, the more likely it becomes for a real amplifier that other poles (not considered in this analysis) play a part.
- ↑
That is, the frequency is plotted in powers of ten, as 1, 10, 10
^{2}*etc*. - ↑
A factor of two results in the
*maximally flat*or Butterworth design for a two-pole amplifier. However, real amplifiers have more than two poles, and a factor greater than two often is necessary.

## References

- ↑
A van Staveren, MHL Kouwenhoven, WA Serdijn & CJM Verhoeven (2002). “Chapter 9: Frequency compensation”, C. Toumazu, Moschytz GS & Gilbert B eds:
*Trade-offs in analog circuit design: the designer's companion, Part 1*. New York/Berlin/Dordrecht: Springer, pp. 272–275. ISBN 1402070373. - ↑
Marc T. Thompson (2006).
*Intuitive analog circuit design: a problem-solving approach using design case studies*. Amsterdam: Elsevier Newnes, p. 200. ISBN 0750677864. - ↑
^{3.0}^{3.1}Wally M. C. Sansen (2006).*Analog design essentials*. New York; Berlin: Springer, §097, p. 266*ff*. ISBN 0-387-25746-2. - ↑
A.S. Sedra and K.C. Smith (2004).
*Microelectronic circuits*, Fifth Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 849 and Example 8.6, p. 853. ISBN 0-19-514251-9. - ↑
^{5.0}^{5.1}Huijsing, Johan H. (2001).*Operational amplifiers: theory and design*. Boston, MA: Kluwer Academic, §6.2, pp.205–206 and Figure 6.2.1. ISBN 0-7923-7284-0. - ↑ Dennis Feucht. Two-pole compensation.
- ↑
Douglas Self (2006).
*Audio power amplifier design handbook*, 4rth ed. Oxford: Newnes, pp. 191–193. ISBN 0750680725.