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High-Performance
Data-Acquisition System
Enhances Images for
Digital X-Ray and MRI
Today, manufacturers of digital X-ray detectors typically use
indirect conversion. Amorphous silicon flat-panel detectors or
photodiode arrays with more than one million pixels capture
the photon energy, multiplexing the outputs into one or
two dozen ADCs. This technology offers effective X-ray photon
absorption and a high signal-to-noise ratio to obtain dynamic
high-resolution images in real time with a 50% lower X-ray
dose. The sampling rate of each pixel is low, from a few hertz
for bones and teeth, to a maximum of 120 Hz for capturing
images of a baby’s heart, which is the fastest organ in the body.
By Maithil Pachchigar
Introduction
Digital X-ray (DXR), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and
other medical devices require small, high-performance, lowpower data-acquisition systems to meet the demands of doctors,
patients, and manufacturers in a competitive marketplace. This
article showcases a high-precision, low-power signal chain that
solves the challenges of multichannel applications—such as digital
X-ray—that multiplex large and small signal measurements from
multiple channels, as well as oversampled applications—such
as MRI—that require low noise, high dynamic range, and wide
bandwidth. The combination of high throughput rate, low noise,
high linearity, low power dissipation, and small size makes the
AD7960 18-bit, 5-MSPS PulSAR® differential ADC ideal for these
high-performance imaging applications as well as other precision
data-acquisition systems.
Digital X-Ray
When X-rays were first discovered in 1895, they were detected
using film or scintillation screens. Since their discovery, X-ray
technology has been used for medical diagnostics in fields including
oncology, dentistry, and veterinary medicine, as well as in a host
of other industrial imaging applications. Digital X-ray replaces
film detectors with solid-state sensors, including flat-panel and
line-scan detectors. Flat panel detectors use two technologies:
direct conversion and indirect conversion. With direct conversion,
a selenium array forms capacitive elements that directly convert
the high-frequency X-ray photons into an electronic current. With
indirect conversion, a cesium iodide scintillator first converts the
X-ray photons into visible light, and a silicon photodiode array
then converts the visible light into an electronic current. Each
photodiode represents a pixel. A low-noise analog front end
transforms the small current from each pixel into a large voltage,
which is then converted into digital data that can be processed by
the image processors. A typical DXR system, shown in Figure 1,
multiplexes many channels at high sampling rates into a single
ADC without sacrificing accuracy.
X-RAY
SOURCE
PATIENT
X-RAY
DETECTOR
The performance of a digital radiography detector is measured
by its image quality, so accurate acquisition and precise
processing of the X-ray beam is essential. Digital radiography’s
increased dynamic range, fast acquisition speed and frame rate,
and uniformity using special image processing techniques allows
it to display an enhanced image.
Medical imaging systems must provide enhanced images for
accurate diagnoses and shorter scanning times for decreased
patient exposure to X-ray dosages. High-end radiography
systems (dynamic acquisition) are typically used in surgical
centers and operating rooms, whereas basic systems are used for
emergencies, in small hospitals, or in doctors’ offices. Industrial
imaging systems must be rugged, as they have long lifetimes
and are subject to high radiation dosages in harsh environments.
Security or baggage inspection applications can use low X-ray
dosages, as the X-ray source remains on for long periods of time.
MRI Gradient Control
MRI systems, shown in Figure 2, are best suited for brain
imaging, or for orthopedic, angiographic, and vascular studies,
as the scan provides high contrast on soft tissue without
exposing it to ionizing radiation. MRI operates in the 1-MHz to
100-MHz RF frequency band, whereas computed tomography
(CT) and DXR operate in the 1016 -Hz to 1018 -Hz frequency
range, subjecting patients to ionizing radiation that can damage
living tissue.
MAGNET
HV
DIENT COIL
GRA
AMP
DIGITAL
CONTROL
RF COIL
–HV
AMP
ADC
Figure 2. MRI system.
FRONT
END
AMP
ADC
FPGA
IMAGE
SENSOR
AMP
DAC
Figure 1. Digital X-ray signal chain.
Analog Dialogue 47-10, October (2013)
www.analog.com/analogdialogue
1
Control systems for MRI specify tight tolerances, thus requiring
high-performance components. In MRI systems, a large coil is
used to create the main magnetic field of 1.5 T to 3 T. A high
voltage—up to 1000 V—is applied to the coil to develop the
required current of up to 1000 A. MRI systems use gradient
control to linearly vary the main magnetic field by changing the
current in special coils. These gradient coils are modulated rapidly
and precisely, altering the main magnetic field to target very small
locations within the body. The gradient control energizes a thin
cross section of the body tissue using RF energy to generate the
x-, y-, and z-axis images. MRI demands fast response time, with
its gradient precisely controlled to within 1 mA (1 ppm). MRI
system manufacturers can control the gradient in either analog or
digital domains. The design of MRI systems involves significant
development time, a huge bill-of-material cost, and large risks
associated with its overall hardware and software complexity.
High-Performance Data-Acquisition Signal Chain
Figure 3 shows a high-precision, low-noise, 18-bit data-acquisition
signal chain that features ±0.8-LSB integral nonlinearity (INL),
±0.5-LSB differential nonlinearity (DNL), and 99-dB signal-tonoise ratio (SNR). Figure 4 shows its typical FFT and linearity
performance using a 5‑V reference. The total power consumption
of the signal chain is about 345 mW, about 50% lower than
competitive solutions.
+VS
+7V
ADR4550
0.1F
+5V
AD8031
0.1F
0.1F
10F
+5V
–VS
0.1F
+1.8V
0.1F
+1.8V
0.1F
+VS
REF
VDD1
VDD2
VIO
CNV±
100
–VS
IN+
D±
100
DCO±
100
AD7960
IN–
+VS
GND
20
0V TO 5V
ADA4899-1
CLK±
VCM
56pF
100
DIGITAL HOST
LVDS TRANSMIT AND RECEIVE
ADA4899-1
REFIN
56pF
DIGITAL INTERFACE SIGNALS
20
0V TO 5V
2.5V
0.1F
–VS
+VS
VCM
AD8031
0.1F
BUFFERED VCM PIN OUTPUT
GIVES THE REQUIRED 2.5V
COMMON-MODE SUPPLY FOR
ANALOG INPUTS.
–VS
Figure 3. Precision, fast-settling signal chain using AD7960, ADA4899, AD8031, and ADR4550.
1.00
0
REFERENCE = 5V
INPUT FREQUENCY = 20kHz
SNR = 99.8dB
SINAD = 99.7dB
THD = –115.9dB
SFDR = 118.3dB
–20
0.50
–60
0.25
INL (LSB)
AMPLITUDE (dB)
–40
0.75
–80
–100
–0.25
–120
–0.50
–140
–0.75
–160
–180
0
0
500
1000
1500
2000
2500
–1.00
0
50000
100000
150000
200000
250000
CODE
FREQUENCY (kHz)
Figure 4. AD7960 typical FFT and linearity performance.
2
Analog Dialogue 47-10, October (2013)
This type of high-speed, multichannel, data-acquisition system
could be used in CT, DXR, and other medical imaging applications
that require higher sampling rates without sacrificing accuracy. Its
18-bit linearity and low noise provide enhanced image quality, and
its 5‑MSPS throughput allows a shorter scanning period (more
frames per second) and decreased exposure to the X-ray dosage
for accurate physician diagnostics and a better patient experience.
Multiplexing multiple channels creates higher-resolution images
for full analysis of organs such as the heart, and achieves
affordable diagnosis while minimizing power dissipation. Accuracy,
cost, power dissipation, size, complexity, and reliability are of
paramount importance for medical equipment manufacturers.
and other oversampled applications—require a state-of-the-art
ADC. The AD7960 18-bit, 5-MSPS PulSAR differential ADC,
shown in Figure 5, uses a capacitive digital-to-analog converter
(CAPDAC) to provide unprecedented noise and linearity without
latency or pipeline delay. It provides the wide bandwidth, high
accuracy (100 dB DR), and fast sampling (200 ns) required for
medical imaging applications, and significantly reduces power
dissipation and cost in multichannel applications. Available in a
small (5 mm × 5 mm), easy-to-use 32‑lead LFCSP package, it is
specified over the –40°C to +85°C industrial temperature range.
The 16-bit AD7961 is pin-compatible with the AD7960, and can
be used when 16-bit performance is sufficient.
In CT scanners, the pixel current is captured continuously using
one track-and-hold per channel, with outputs multiplexed to a
high-speed ADC. A high throughput rate allows many pixels to
be multiplexed to a single ADC, saving cost, space, and power.
Low noise and good linearity provide a high-quality image. Highresolution infrared cameras could benefit from this solution.
REFIN
REF VCM
VDD1 VDD2
VIO
EN0
EN1
÷2
IN+
Oversampling is the process of sampling the input signal at a much
higher rate than the Nyquist frequency. Oversampling is used
for spectroscopy, MRI, gas chromatography, blood analysis, and
other medical instruments that require a wide dynamic range to
accurately monitor and measure both small and large signals from
multiple channels. High resolution and accuracy, low noise, fast
refresh rates, and very low output drift can significantly simplify
the design, reducing development cost and risk for MRI systems.
CLOCK
LOGIC
EN3
CAP
DAC
IN–
EN2
CNV+, CNV–
SERIAL
LVDS
SAR
AD7960
D+, D–
DCO+, DCO–
CLK+, CLK–
GND
Figure 5. AD7960 functional block diagram.
One of the key requirements for MRI systems is measurement
repeatability and stability over long periods of time in a hospital
or doctor’s office. For enhanced image quality, these systems
also demand tight linearity and high dynamic range (DR) from
dc to tens of kilohertz. As a guideline, oversampling the ADC
by a factor of four provides one additional bit of resolution, or a
6-dB increase in DR. The DR improvement due to oversampling
is ΔDR = log2 (OSR) × 3 dB. In many cases, oversampling is
implemented well in Σ-Δ ADCs, but these are limited when fast
switching between channels and accurate dc measurements are
required. Oversampling with a successive-approximation (SAR)
ADC also improves antialiasing and reduces noise.
The capacitive DAC, shown in Figure 6, consists of a differential
18-bit binary weighted capacitor array—which is also used as
the sampling capacitor that acquires the analog input signal—a
comparator, and control logic. When the acquisition phase is
complete, the conversion control input (CNV±) goes high, the
differential voltage between inputs IN+ and IN− is captured,
and the conversion phase begins. Each element of the capacitor
array is successively switched between GND and REF, charge is
redistributed, the input is compared to the DAC value, and the bit
is kept or dropped depending upon the result. The control logic
generates the ADC output code at the completion of this process.
The AD7960 returns to acquisition mode about 100 ns after the
start of conversion. The acquisition time is approximately 50% of
the total cycle time, making the AD7960 easy to drive and relaxing
the required settling time of the ADC driver.
State-of-the-Art ADC Architecture
Precision high-speed data-acquisition systems used in CT, DXR,
and other multichannel applications—or in spectroscopy, MRI,
IN+
GND
LSB
MSB
131,072C
65,536C
4C
2C
C
SW+
SWITCHES
CONTROL
C
CLK+, CLK–
REF
COMP
CONTROL
LOGIC
GND
131,072C
65,536C
MSB
4C
2C
C
D+, D–
DATA
TRANSFER
OUTPUT CODE
C
SW–
LSB
CNV+, CNV–
GND
IN–
DCO+, DCO–
LVDS INTERFACE
CONVERSION
CONTROL
Figure 6. AD7960 simplified internal schematic.
Analog Dialogue 47-10, October (2013)
3
The AD7960 series operates from 1.8-V and 5-V supplies,
dissipating only 39 mW at 5 MSPS when converting in self-clocked
mode. The power dissipation scales linearly with sample rate, as
shown in Figure 7.
45
40
POWER (mW)
35
30
25
share a common clock. This also reduces power dissipation, which
is especially useful in multiplexed applications. The self-clocked
mode simplifies the interface with the host processor, allowing
simple timing with a header that synchronizes the data from each
conversion. A header is required to allow the digital host to acquire
the data output because there is no clock output synchronous to
the data. The echoed-clock mode provides robust timing at the
expense of an extra differential pair. The AD7960 achieves over
120-dB typical dynamic range at output data rates below 20 kSPS,
as shown in Figure 8.
125
20
19.5
120
15
DYNAMIC RANGE (dB)
10
5
0
0
1
2
3
4
5
THROUGHPUT RATE (MSPS)
Figure 7. AD7960 power consumption vs. throughput rate.
The power dissipation at very slow sample rates is dominated by
the LVDS static power. The AD7960 is twice as fast, dissipates
70% less power, and occupies a 50% smaller footprint than the
industry’s next fastest 18-bit SAR ADC.
The AD7960 allows three external reference options: 2.048 V,
4.096 V, and 5 V. An on-chip buffer doubles the 2.048-V reference
voltage, so the conversions are referred to 4.096 V or 5 V.
The digital interface uses low-voltage differential signaling
(LVDS), offering self-clocked and echoed-clock modes to enable
high-speed data transfer (up to 300 MHz) between the ADC and
the host processor. The LVDS interface reduces the number of
10 log(
digital signals and eases signal routing, as multiple
devices can
Table 1. AD7960 ADC Driver Selection Benchmark
ADC Driver Specifications
Bandwidth (f–3dB_amp)
Slew Rate
Settling Time
SNR
115
110
105
5000
100
95
N ln 2
π t acq
90
16
64
256
1024
4096
OUTPUT DATA RATE (kHz)
Figure 8. AD7960 dynamic range vs. output data rate.
ADC Driver
The acquisition time of the ADC determines the settling
time requirements for the ADC driver. Table 1 shows some
specifications that must be considered when selecting an ADC
2
driver.
As always, the signal chain performance should be verified
Vrms
_ in
)
on the bench to
π ensure that the desired performance is achievable.
(2(en _ amp ) 2 × f −3dB _ ADC ×
2
)2
GeneralNFormula
ln 2
Nπlnt acq
2
π t acq
Single- ended input voltage
0.5t acq
From data sheet
2
Vrms _ in
10 log(
)
2
V2rms _ in
10 log( (2(en _ amp ) × f −3dB _ ADC × π ) 2)
π2
(2(en _ amp ) 2 × f −3dB _ ADC × ) 2
2
2
Minimum Requirements
40 MHz
100 V/µs
100 ns
105.5 dB
Notes: N = 18, tacq = 100 ns, Vrms_in2 = 52/2 = 12.5 V , en_amp = 2 nV/√Hz, f–3dB_ ADC = 28 MHz.
Single- ended input voltage
Single- ended
0.5input
t acq voltage
0.5t acq
4
Analog Dialogue 47-10, October (2013)
The op amp’s data sheet usually provides the settling time
specification as a combination of the time for linear settling
and slewing; the formulas given are first-order approximations
assuming 50% for linear settling and 50% for slewing (multiplexed
application) using a 5-V single-ended input.
The ADA4899-1 rail-to-rail amplifier features 600-MHz
bandwidth, –117-dBc distortion @ 1 MHz, and 1-nV/√Hz noise, as
shown in Figure 9. It settles to 0.1% within 50 ns when configured
as a unity-gain buffer driving the inputs of the AD7960 with a
5-V differential signal.
VOLTAGE NOISE (nV/ Hz)
10
features high precision (±0.02% max initial error), low drift
(2 ppm/°C max), low noise (1 µV p-p), and low power (950 µA max).
A second AD8031 buffers the ADC’s 2.5-V common-mode output
voltage. Its low output impedance maintains a stable reference
voltage independent of the ADC input voltage to minimize
INL. Stable for large capacitive loads, the AD8031 can drive
the decoupling capacitors required to minimize spikes caused by
transient currents. It is ideal for a wide range of applications, from
wideband battery-operated systems to high-speed, high-density
systems that demand low power dissipation.
Conclusion
A high-precision, low-power signal chain using ADI’s proprietary
technology offers unprecedented speed, noise, and linearity,
solving the difficult challenges of high-performance multiplexed
and oversampled data-acquisition systems used for DXR and MRI
gradient control. The high-performance signal chain components
are available in small footprint packages, saving space and reducing
cost in multichannel applications.
1
Author
0.1
10
100
1k
10k
100k
1M
10M
100M
FREQUENCY (Hz)
Figure 9. ADA4899 noise spectral density.
Reference and Buffers
The low-noise, low-power AD8031 rail-to-rail amplifier buffers
the 5-V output from the ADR4550 voltage reference, which
Analog Dialogue 47-10, October (2013)
Maithil Pachchigar [[email protected]]
is an applications engineer in ADI’s Precision
Converters business unit in Wilmington, MA. He
joined ADI in 2010 and supports the precision ADC
product portfolio and customers in the industrial,
instrumentation, medical, and energy segments. Having worked
in the semiconductor industry since 2005, Maithil has published
several technical articles. He received an MSEE from San
Jose State University in 2006 and an MBA from Silicon Valley
University in 2010.
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