Analog Signal Switching Using Diodes

Diodes can switch analog signals. A reverse biased diode appears to be an open circuit. A forward biased diode is a low resistance conductor. The only problem is isolating the AC signal being switched from the DC control signal. The circuit in Figure below is a parallel resonant network: resonant tuning inductor paralleled by one (or more) of the switched resonator capacitors. This parallel LC resonant circuit could be a preselector filter for a radio receiver. It could be the frequency determining network of an oscillator (not shown). The digital control lines may be driven by a microprocessor interface.

Diode switch: A digital control signal (low) selects a resonator capacitor by forward biasing the switching diode.

The large value DC blocking capacitor grounds the resonant tuning inductor for AC while blocking DC. It would have a low reactance compared to the parallel LC reactances. This prevents the anode DC voltage from being shorted to ground by the resonant tuning inductor. A switched resonator capacitor is selected by pulling the corresponding digital control low. This forward biases the switching diode. The DC current path is from +5 V through an RF choke (RFC), a switching diode, and an RFC to ground via the digital control. The purpose of the RFC at the +5 V is to keep AC out of the +5 V supply. The RFC in series with the digital control is to keep AC out of the external control line. The decoupling capacitor shorts the little AC leaking through the RFC to ground, bypassing the external digital control line.

With all three digital control lines high (≥+5 V), no switched resonator capacitors are selected due to diode reverse bias. Pulling one or more lines low, selects one or more switched resonator capacitors, respectively. As more capacitors are switched in parallel with the resonant tuning inductor, the resonant frequency decreases.

The reverse biased diode capacitance may be substantial compared with very high frequency or ultra high frequency circuits. PIN diodes may be used as switches for lower capacitance.

Article Extracted from Tony R. Kuphaldt Lessons In Electric Circuits — Volume III Chapter 3 under the terms and conditions of the CC BY License.

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