### MAXIM AN629

```DIGITAL POTENTIOMETERS
Jul 01, 2001
A digitally adjustable voltage reference is useful in many applications. For instance, it can be
used to finely tune the reference voltage when absolute accuracy is required or to adjust the
reference voltage to match the full-scale voltage range of an analog-input signal to maximize the
dynamic range of an analog-to-digital conversion. You can easily create one by combining an
adjustable voltage reference with a digital potentiometer (pot). Using the digitally variable aspect
of the digital pot to control the adjustment voltage on the reference results in a flexible and
useful circuit. Three basic circuit topologies are presented here. The first achieves a coarse
adjustment over a wide voltage range, the second a fine adjustment over a narrow voltage
range, and the third a fine adjustment over a wide voltage range. These simple circuits can be
used directly or can form the basis for more complex control systems.
The output voltage of an adjustable voltage reference, like the MAX6160, is set by the ratio of
two resistors, R1 and R2, in Figure 1. The relationship between the voltage and the resistors is
given by the equation next to the circuit in the figure. The equations for calculating the values for
R1 and R2 are also shown.
Figure 1. The MAX6160 adjustable output circuit with fixed precision resistors
Coarse Adjustment over a Wide Voltage Range
Figure 2 combines the MAX6160 with the MAX5462 (a 100-kilohm, 32-tap digital pot). This
circuit is capable of digitally adjusting the output over the range from 1.23V to 5.3V. The ADJ pin
voltage limits the minimum output voltage, and the supply voltage for the MAX5462 and the
MAX6160 dropout voltage limit the maximum output voltage. This circuit is useful when the
voltage reference needs to be programmed in the field to different levels and absolute accuracy
is not critical but low drift is required.
Figure 2. The MAX6160 digitally adjustable output circuit with the MAX5462 32-tap digital pot
This circuit is capable of setting the output voltage to within 5% of 2.048V, 7% of 2.50V, 11% of
4.096V, and 16% of 5.00V. The key spec for the MAX5462 is the ratiometric resistance
temperature coefficient (tempco) of 5ppm/°C. This low-drift characteristic enables drift
performance comparable to a fixed output voltage reference with the flexibility to coarsely adjust
the output.
The same topology can be used with the MAX5401 (a 100-kilohm, 256-tap digital pot), shown in
Figure 3, to increase the resolution by roughly an order of magnitude. This circuit is capable of
setting the output voltage to within 0.6% of 2.048V, 0.8% of 2.50V, 1.3% of 4.096V, and 1.6% of
5.00V. It has the same benefits as the circuit in Figure 2 but with this increased resolution.
Figure 3. The MAX6160 digitally adjustable output circuit with the MAX5401 256-tap digital pot
Fine Adjustment over a Narrow Voltage Range
The circuit in Figure 4 uses the MAX5160 (a 32-tap digital pot) with two fixed precision resistors
to finely tune around a specific output voltage. The tuning resolution is increased and the range
is decreased as the ratio of the total fixed resistance to the digital pot resistance is increased.
Table 1 shows the resistor-value selection optimized to achieve 0.5% tuning accuracy. These
resistor values can be altered depending on the requirements for initial accuracy and drift.
Figure 4. The MAX6160 digitally adjustable output circuit with the MAX5160 32-tap digital pot
and fixed precision resistors
Table 1. Resistor-Value Selection for the Figure 4 Circuit to Achieve 0.5% Accuracy
RP
Output
R1
R2
Accuracy
(volts) (kilohms) (kilohms) (kilohms) (percent)
2.048
200
301
50
0.5
2.500
309
301
50
0.5
4.096
732
301
50
0.5
5.000
976
301
50
0.5
Fine Adjustment over a Wide Voltage Range
Figure 5 combines the MAX6160 with the MAX5415 (a dual, 100-kilohm, 256-tap digital pot) to
achieve a fine adjustment over a wide output-voltage range. Due to the symmetry in this circuit,
there is some redundancy, making only 25% of the settings unique. With this interesting
topology, the output can be set to within 0.06% of 2.048V, 0.03% of 2.500V, 0.08% of 4.096V,
and 0.2% of 5.00V. Because of the interaction between the two pots, the transfer function is
nonlinear in two dimensions, resulting in a response that resembles a saddle. A plot of this is
shown in Figure 6, where 32-tap digital pots are used instead of 256-tap digital pots for clarity.
Figure 5. The MAX6160 digitally adjustable voltage reference with the MAX5415, dual, 100kilohm, 256-tap digital pot
Figure 6. Plot of Figure 5 circuit of reference voltage output versus pot A and pot B (32-by-32
taps used instead of 256-by-256 taps for clarity)
Summary
Three circuit topologies were presented that provide the capability to digitally adjust the
MAX6160's output voltage. The first topology provides the capability to coarsely adjust the
output voltage over a wide range using a 32- or 256-tap digital pot. The second topology is
capable of finely adjusting the output voltage about a single output voltage by using two fixed
resistors and a 32-tap digital pot. The third topology can finely tune the output voltage over a
wide range by using a dual, 256-tap digital pot. Table 2 summarizes the initial accuracy for each
circuit presented.
Table 2. Summary of Initial Accuracy
Digital Pot Features
MAX5462
32T, 100
Kilohms
MAX5401
256T, 100
Kilohms
MAX5160
32T, 50
Kilohms,
Two
Resistors
2.048V
5%
0.6%
0.5%
0.06%
2.500V
7%
0.8%
0.5%
0.03%
4.096V
11%
1.3%
0.5%
0.08%
Output
Voltage
MAX5415
256T, 100
Kilohms,
Dual
5.000V
16%
1.6%
0.5%
0.2%
The initial accuracy, adjustment range, and long-term drift requirements for the system must be
considered when choosing a circuit topology. The low wiper resistance, the low end-to-end
resistor tempco, and the very low ratiometric tempco specifications make Maxim's digital
potentiometers excellent choices to digitally adjust a reference voltage.
July 2001