Current sources and mirrors

Current sources and mirrors

A current source is an electronic circuit that generates a constant direct current which flows into or out of a high-impedance output node. A current mirror is an electronic circuit that generates a current which flows into or out of a high-impedance output node, which is a scaled replica of an input current, flowing into or out of a different node.

Most specifications of analog integrated circuits depend almost uniquely on the technological parameters of the devices, and on the direct or alternating current that flows through them. The voltage drop over the devices has much less impact on performance, as long as it keeps the devices in the appropriate mode of operation (linear or saturation). High-performance analog integrated-circuit signal processing requires that currents be generated and replicated (mirrored) accurately, independent of supply voltage and of those device parameters that are least predictable (such as current gain ß in a bipolar transistor). Hence, current sources and mirrors occupy a large portion of the total die area of any analog integrated circuit. They are also used, but less often, in discrete analog circuits. See Integrated circuits, Transistor

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