Minimum detector arrangement

Abstract

A minimum detector arrangement comprising a minimum detector for detecting a minimum value of an input signal and generating a first output signal indicative for an approximation of the minimum value of the input signal. The minimum detector arrangement is characterized in that it further comprises a replica of the minimum detector for receiving another input signal and generating a second output signal indicative for an error in said approximation. The minimum detector and the replica of the minimum detector being coupled to a signal combination unit for generating a third output signal indicative for a more accurate approximation of the minimum value of the input signal.

Claims

1 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) comprising a minimum detector ( 10 ) generating a first output signal (Imin) indicative for an approximation of a minimum value of an input signal, characterized in that said minimum detector arrangement further comprises a replica of the minimum detector ( 20 ) for receiving another input signal ( 21 ) and generating a second output signal (Ir) indicative for an error in said approximation, said minimum detector ( 10 ) and said replica of the minimum detector ( 20 ) being coupled to a signal combination unit ( 30 ) for generating a third output signal (Iout) indicative for a more accurate approximation of the minimum value of the input signal ( 11 ). 2 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) as claimed in claim 1 wherein the signal combination unit ( 30 ) is conceived to add the first output signal (Imin) and the second output signal (Ir) to each other. 3 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) as claimed in claim 1 wherein the signal combination unit ( 30 ) is conceived to subtract the first output signal (Imin) and the second output signal (Ir) to each other. 4 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) as claimed in claim 1 wherein the input signal ( 11 ) and the other input signal ( 21 ) are currents. 5 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) as claimed in claim 4 wherein the signal combination unit ( 30 ) is an electrical node. 6 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) as claimed in claim 1 to 5 wherein the minimum detector ( 10 ) and the replica of the minimum detector ( 20 ) are integrated on a single chip. 7 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) as claimed in claim 5 wherein the minimum detector ( 10 ) and the replica of the minimum detector ( 20 ) comprise a controllable clamp diode (T 4 , T 4 ′) controlled by a control signal S, said clamp diode being coupled to an input for receiving the input signal ( 11 ) and the other input signal ( 21 ), respectively. 8 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) as claimed in claim 7 wherein the minimum detector ( 10 ) and the replica of the minimum detector ( 20 ) comprise an additional controllable diode (T C ) coupled to an additional current source (I C ), the additional controllable diode (T C ) being coupled to the clamp diode (T 4 ) via a first resistor ( 110 ) for minimizing a transition time of the clamp diode from a state ON to a state OFF. 9 . A minimum detector arrangement ( 1 ) as claimed in claim 8 wherein the minimum detector ( 10 ) and the replica of the minimum detector ( 20 ) comprise a controllable reference diode (T 6 , T 6 ′) coupled to a reference current source (Iref) for generating a reference voltage (Vref), said reference diode (T 6 , T 6 ′)being further coupled to the additional controllable diode (T C )via a second resistor ( 120 ) for minimizing a parasitic transition time of the clamp diode from a state ON to a state OFF, said parasitic transition time being determined by a transition from a maximum value to a minimum value of the input signal ( 11 ).
[0001] The invention relates to a minimum detector arrangement comprising a minimum detector for detecting a minimum value of an input signal and generating a first output signal indicative for an approximation of the minimum value of the input signal. [0002] Extreme value detectors and, especially, maximum value detectors are widely used in modem technology as in measurement and data acquisition systems. When possible, a minimum value detector can be realized with an inverter and a maximum detector said inverter inverting a signal whose minimum value has to be determined. In this way the minimum value of a signal is determined in an indirect way by first inverting the input signal and subsequently determining the maximum of the inverted signal. But there are situations when this is not possible and a minimum detector has to be implemented in a direct way. It is further observed that the signal whose minimum or maximum value has to be determined could be a voltage, a current, a charge. [0003] A minimum current detector comprises a differential comparator having an inverting input (−) and a non-inverting input (+) and an output (out). As long as a voltage (Vin) applied to the non-inverting input (+) is less then a reference voltage (Vref) applied to the inverting input (−) the output is in an OFF state i.e. an output current of the comparator is significantly zero. When the voltage applied to the non-inverting input (+) is larger that the reference voltage i.e. the comparator is in an ON state, there is an output current indicating that the comparator is in the ON state. When the input signal (Iin) changes very quickly, i.e. when there is a train of high frequency impulses, the detection of a minimum value of the input signal must be made very fast and in the same time with a maximum accuracy. Furthermore, edges of the input pulses must be very sharp in order to avoid an uncertainty situation when the input voltage (Vin) is almost equal to the reference voltage and the output of the comparator could oscillate. For detecting the minimum value of an input current (Iin), the non-inverting input (−) is coupled to a clamp diode (D c ) which conducts a current when the input signal (Iin) is low i.e. the diode is ON. When the input signal (Iin) is high the current through the clamp diode is substantially zero i.e. the diode is OFF. The accuracy of detecting a minimum signal at the input depends on the commutation parameters of the clamp diode e.g. it's dynamic resistance and it's supply voltage. Unfortunately the dynamic resistance is frequency dependent and as a matter of consequence, the accuracy of the detector depends on the frequency of the input signal. Furthermore, the commutation parameters of the clamp diode deteriorate the edges of the input signal. [0004] A controllable current source generates a current indicative for an approximation of the minimum signal value. This current has a parasitic component that further affects the accuracy of the minimum input signal indication. [0005] It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a minimum detector arrangement suitable to be used in high frequency systems. [0006] In accordance with the invention this is achieved in a device as described in the introductory paragraph being characterized in that it further comprises a replica of the minimum detector for receiving another input signal and generating a second output signal indicative for an error in said approximation, said minimum detector and said replica of the minimum detector being coupled to a signal combination unit for generating a third output signal indicative for a more accurate approximation of the minimum value of the input signal. [0007] The minimum detector provides an output signal that is indicative for an approximation of the minimum value of an input signal. Depending on the minimum detector structure, the output signal is a more or less accurate indication on the minimum value of the input signal. In order to obtain a more accurate indication on the minimum value of the input signal the minimum signal detector arrangement further comprises a replica of the minimum signal detector for generating a second output signal that is indicative for an error in the approximation. The replica of the minimum detector has a hardware structure substantially identical to the minimum detector and is driven by an input signal that is indicative for the minimum value of the input signal. Said replica of the minimum detector generates the second output signal that is indicative for an error in the approximation. The first output signal is combined with the second output signal in a signal combination unit, said signal combination unit generating a third output signal indicative for a more accurate approximation of the minimum value of the input signal. If the error is additive i.e. there is an adding parasitic signal to the minimum value of the signal then the signal combination unit generates a signal indicative for a difference between the first output signal and the second output signal. If the error is subtractive i.e. there is a subtracting parasitic signal to the minimum value of the input signal then the signal combination unit generates a signal indicative for a sum between the first output signal and the second output signal. It is further observed that if the minimum detector arrangement has the first output signal and the second output signal as currents then the signal combination unit could be an electrical node where the currents could be subtracted or added directly depending on the error signal type i.e. additive or subtractive. In the case when the minimum detector arrangement has the first output signal and the second output signal as voltages the signal combination unit could be an adder or a subtractor depending on the error signal type i.e. subtractive or additive. If the minimum detector arrangement has the first output signal and the second output signal as frequencies then the signal combination unit could be digital counter or an analogue mixer, said mixer combining the first output signal and the second output signal and generating a complex signal indicative for the signals sum and difference. The mixer is coupled to a band-pass filter for selecting either the signal indicative for the difference of the signals, when the error is additive or the signal indicative for the sum of the signals, when the error is subtractive. [0008] Because the minimum detector and the replica of the minimum detector are substantially identical then they are influenced in the same way by the environmental factors as power supply voltage and temperature. The minimum detector arrangement is then less sensitive to the variations in the environmental conditions. [0009] In an embodiment of the invention the minimum detector and the replica of the minimum detector comprise a controllable clamp diode controlled by a control signal S, said clamp diode being coupled to an input for receiving the input signal and the other input signal, respectively. Normally a diode can be realized using a transistor. For example, if the transistor is a bipolar one then the diode could be realized by connecting the base to the collector, the resulting diode having a threshold voltage V BE approximately equal to 0.65 volt if silicon transistors are considered. In order to improve the behavior of the transistor with high frequency signals the base of the transistor is connected to a control voltage that determines the current through the collector and as a matter of consequence the clamp diode better adapts to high frequency signals. In order to improve further the commutation behavior of the clamp diode there is provided an additional controllable diode coupled to an additional current source. The additional controllable diode is coupled to the clamp diode via a first resistor for minimizing a transition time of the clamp diode from a state ON to a state OFF. The state is considered ON when the current through the diode is different from zero and the state is considered OFF when the current through the diode is substantially zero. As a direct consequence, the edges of the signal obtained at the clamp diode are sharpened and when the clamp diode is coupled to a differential comparator said differential comparator has improved commutation characteristics e.g. avoiding an uncertainty situation when the input signals are considerably equal to each other for a relatively long period of time. [0010] In order to further improve the commutation edges of the signal on the clamp diode it is provided a controllable reference diode coupled to a reference current source for generating a reference voltage. Said reference diode is further coupled to the additional controllable diode via a second resistor for minimizing a parasitic transition time of the clamp diode from a state ON to a state OFF. Said parasitic transition time is determined by the transition from a maximum value to a minimum value of the input signal. [0011] The above and other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following description of exemplary embodiments of the invention with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which: [0012] [0012]FIG. 1 depicts a block diagram of a minimum current detector, as it is known in prior art, [0013] [0013]FIG. 2 depicts a minimum detector arrangement according to the present invention, [0014] [0014]FIG. 3 depicts an embodiment of the minimum detector arrangement of FIG. 2 in more detail, [0015] [0015]FIG. 4 depicts a detailed description of a part of another embodiment of the minimum detector arrangement. [0016] [0016]FIG. 1 depicts a block diagram of a minimum current detector, as it is known in prior art. The minimum current detector shown in FIG. 1 comprises a Comparator having a non-inverting input (+), an inverting input (−) and an output for providing a low level output signal OUT whenever a reference voltage Vref applied to the inverting input (−) is larger then a signal Vin applied to the non-inverting input (+). Otherwise the output signal OUT has a high level. In most applications the output signal OUT is a current. A clamp diode D C is connected as a clamp diode for limiting the minimum value of the signal Vin. I in is an input current having two logical values i.e. a high value and a low value. The lowest value of I in must be determined using the minimum current detector. When I in is maximum the Vin is minimum and a voltage Vd on the clamp diode DC determines it. When the input signal I in is minimum i.e. I min , Vin is maximum. Then the clamp diode is substantially non-conducting i.e. it is OFF. The voltage Vin is further determined by a current I min −Idelta, Idelta being a residual current through the clamp diode. This current loads a parasitic capacitor C p causing the voltage V in to rise. At the moment that the voltage Vin increases up to a level that is higher than V ref the Comparator provides a current OUT that charges a capacitor C LOOP and determines a voltage V LOOP to be maintained as long as I in is minimum. At that moment the output current I OUT is substantially equal to I min −Idelta. As it is seen, the output current is an approximation of the minimum value of the input current. Unfortunately there are several setbacks of this realization as are described further: [0017] depending on the speed of changing of the input current from it's minimum value to it's maximum value the value Idelta is variable. [0018] the clamp diode switches OFF a certain period of time after the input current switches from it's maximum value to it's minimum value i.e. with a certain time constant depending on it's characteristics. This further determines the voltage Vin to have a slow edge i.e. a slow rising time. This slow edge could determine instabilities in the comparator output signal OUT. [0019] the voltage Vin depends on environmental factors as power supply voltage and temperature. [0020] Some of the above mentioned setbacks could be minimized using a minimum detector arrangement 1 as in FIG. 2 The minimum detector arrangement 1 comprises a minimum detector 10 for detecting a minimum value of an input signal 11 and generates a first output signal (Imin) indicative for an approximation of the minimum value of the input signal. The minimum detector arrangement 1 further comprises a replica of the minimum detector 20 for receiving another input signal 21 and generating a second output signal Ir indicative for an error in said approximation. The minimum detector 1 and the replica of the minimum detector 20 are coupled to a signal combination unit 30 for generating a third output signal lout indicative for a more accurate approximation of the minimum value of the input signal 11 . [0021] The minimum detector 10 provides an output signal that is indicative for an approximation of the minimum value of an input signal 11 . Depending on the minimum detector 10 structure, the output signal is a more or less accurate indication on the minimum value of the input signal 11 . In order to obtain a more accurate indication on the minimum value of the input signal 11 the minimum signal detector arrangement 11 further comprises a replica of the minimum signal detector 20 for generating a second output signal Ir that is indicative for an error in the approximation. The replica of the minimum detector 20 has a hardware structure considerably identical to the minimum detector 10 being driven by an input signal 21 that is indicative for the minimum value of the input signal 11 . Said replica of the minimum detector generates the second output signal Ir that is indicative for an error in the approximation. The first output signal Imin is coupled to the second output signal Ir in a signal coupler 30 , said signal coupler 30 generating a third output signal Iout indicative for a more accurate approximation of the minimum value of the input signal 11 . If the error is additive i.e. there is an adding parasitic signal to the minimum value of the signal then the signal combination unit generates a signal indicative for a difference between the first output signal and the second output signal. If the error is subtractive i.e. there is a subtracting parasitic signal to the minimum value of the input signal then the signal combination unit 30 generates a signal indicative for a sum between the first output signal min and the second output signal Ir. It is further observed that if the first output signal Imin and the second output signal Ir are currents then the signal combination unit 30 could be an electrical node. In this node the currents are subtracted from each other or added to each other depending on the error signal type i.e. additive or subtractive. In the case when the first output signal and the second output signal are voltages the signal combination unit 30 could be an adder or a subtractor depending on the error signal type i.e. subtractive or additive. If the first output signal Imin and the second output signal Ir are frequencies then the signal combination unit 30 could be a digital counter or an analogue mixer. The mixer combines the first output signal Iout and the second output signal Ir and generates a complex signal indicative for the signals sum and difference. The mixer is coupled to a band-pass filter for selecting either the signal indicative for the difference of the signals, when the error is additive or the signal indicative for the sum of the signals, when the error is subtractive. [0022] Because the minimum detector 10 and the replica of the minimum detector 20 are substantially identical then they are influenced in the same way by the environmental factors as power supply voltage and temperature. As a matter of consequence the minimum detector arrangement 1 is then less sensitive to the variations in the environmental conditions. This influence could be further reduced if the minimum detector 10 and the replica of the minimum detector 20 are integrated on the same chip. [0023] [0023]FIG. 3 depicts a minimum current detector with a replica of the minimum current detector according to an embodiment of the invention. In FIG. 3 the comparator could be of the same type as in FIG. 1. Transistors T 1 and T 2 realize a current source driven by the output of the comparator. When a magnitude of a signal applied at the non-inverting input of the comparator “+” is smaller that the magnitude of a signal applied at the inverting input of the comparator “−” the output signal OUT has a lower value and the capacitor Cloop is discharging. In a dual situation when the magnitude of the signal applied at the “+” input is larger than the magnitude of the signal applied at the inverting input the output of the comparator is at a high level. In this moment the capacitor Cloop charges causing a current in the drains of transistors T 3 and T 7 . The drain currents of transistors T 3 and T 7 indicate the minimum current. Transistor T 4 represents the clamp diode. Because of a residual current that exists in the clamp diode T 4 when the minimum current is present at the input there will be a systematical error current affecting the minimum current indication, said error current being noted for convenience Idelta. The total current in the drain of the transistor T 7 is Imin−Idelta, where Imin is the minimum current to be detected. A control signal S realizes a pre-polarization of the transistor T 4 determining a smooth commutation i.e. with no overshoots. Transistor T 5 is used in a so called “common base” connection it's base being connected to a DC signal Vp. The current source 11 is the input signal, said signal being a binary one i.e. having only a minimum and a maximum magnitude. Current source Iref and transistor T 6 determines a reference voltage at the “−” input of the comparator. A replica of the minimum detector 20 is also presented in FIG. 3. All the components with similar functions as in minimum detector 10 have been noted as prime e.g. T 3 ′. Transistors T 8 ′ and T 9 ′ realize a current source indicative for a minimum current in the clamp diode T 4 ′. The current source 21 provides a predetermined current which is indicative for the minimum current. In the drain of the transistor T 9 ′ the current Idelta is generated and it is added in the node 30 to the minimum current obtained by the minimum current detector 10 . In this way a better approximation of the minimum current is obtained. Furthermore, because the minimum detector 10 and the replica of the minimum detector 20 are normally integrated on the same chip, they are influenced in the same way by environmental factors as temperature and power supply voltage. As a matter of consequence the indication on Imin is considerably independent with respect said factors. It is further observed that the circuit presented in FIG. 3 is realized with p-MOS and bipolar NPN transistors. This does not exclude other possible combinations between different types of transistors realizing the same functions as in the above circuit that a person skilled in the art could find. [0024] A very important issue when comparators are used is the shape of the input signals i.e. the voltage on the clamp diodes T 4 and T 4 ′ in the minimum detector arrangement 1 . Because comparators have an input off-set voltage when the differential input signal is comparable with the off-set voltage, uncontrollable output signals could appear at the output of the comparator. It is then desirable to have input signals with sharp edges. When the input signal commutes from a high to a low value the clamp diodes T 4 and T 4 ′ commute from a state in which they conduct a current i.e. ON state to a state in which they do not conduct a current i.e. an OFF state. The transition from ON state to OFF state is not so sharp and takes some time. In order to sharpen this transition a transistor Tc driven by a current source Ic is provided as it is presented in FIG. 4. It should be pointed out that in FIG. 4 only the minimum detector 10 is presented but it is assumed that the replica of the minimum detector 20 has the same structure. The transistor Tc is connected as a controlled diode being controlled by the same signal S that controls the clamp diode D C . A first resistor 110 realizes a first discharge path for the current of the clamp diode T 4 when commuting from an ON state to an OFF state. This improves the commutation speed of the clamp diode T 4 and as a matter of consequence improves the input signal edges. But, in the same time the commutation level i.e. the “−” input level of the comparator is influenced by the commutation of the clamp diode T 4 . That is why a second resistor 120 is connected between the Ic source and the Iref source. The transitions in the input signal Iin are further transferred at a certain scale to the “−” input of the comparator in such a manner that the comparison process is not influenced by the input signal transitions. [0025] It is remarked that the scope of protection of the invention is not restricted to the embodiments described herein. Neither is the scope of protection of the invention restricted by the reference numerals in the claims. The word ‘comprising’ does not exclude other parts than those mentioned in a claim. The word ‘a(n)’ preceding an element does not exclude a plurality of those elements. Means forming part of the invention may both be implemented in the form of dedicated hardware or in the form of a programmed general-purpose processor. The invention resides in each new feature or combination of features.

Description

Topics

Download Full PDF Version (Non-Commercial Use)

Patent Citations (8)

    Publication numberPublication dateAssigneeTitle
    US-4459693-AJuly 10, 1984Genrad, Inc.Method of and apparatus for the automatic diagnosis of the failure of electrical devices connected to common bus nodes and the like
    US-4985672-AJanuary 15, 1991Advantest CorporationTest equipment for a low current IC
    US-5207390-AMay 04, 1993Mitsubishi Jukogyo Kabushiki KaishaOperation control system for a shredder
    US-5434467-AJuly 18, 1995Mitsubishi Denki Kabushiki KaishaVibrator and detector circuit for vibrating gyro
    US-5614851-AMarch 25, 1997National Semiconductor CorporationHigh-accuracy, low-power peak-to-peak voltage detector
    US-5838198-ANovember 17, 1998U.S. Philips CorporationGain control for parallel-arranged differential pairs
    US-6323723-B1November 27, 2001U.S. Philips CorporationCurrent mirror circuit
    US-6661300-B2December 09, 2003Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V.Ring oscillator and means for controlling the frequency thereof

NO-Patent Citations (0)

    Title

Cited By (5)

    Publication numberPublication dateAssigneeTitle
    EP-1801975-A1June 27, 2007SGS-THOMSON MICROELECTRONICS S.r.l., Politecnico Di MilanoTampon de sortie
    US-2007159236-A1July 12, 2007Stmicroelectronics S.R.L.Output buffer
    US-2010201394-A1August 12, 2010Nec Electronics CorporationTest circuit and test method for testing differential input circuit
    US-7463051-B2December 09, 2008Michele Bartolini, Pier Paolo Stoppino, Paolo Pulici, Gian Pietro VanalliOutput buffer
    US-8446163-B2May 21, 2013Renesas Electronics CorporationTest circuit and test method for testing differential input circuit