Journal article

A Subthreshold Current-Sensing Sigma-Delta Modulator for Low-Voltage and Low-Power Sensor Interfaces

A continuous-time (CT) ΣΔ modulator for sensing and direct analog-to-digital conversion of nA-range (subthreshold) currents is presented in this work. The presented modulator uses a subthreshold technique based on subthreshold source-coupled logic cells to efficiently convert subthreshold current to digital code without performing current-to-voltage conversion. As a benefit of this technique, the current-sensing CT ΣΔ modulator operates at low voltage and consumes very low power, which makes it convenient for low-power and low-voltage current-mode sensor interfaces. The prototype design is implemented in a 0.18 µm standard complementary metal-oxide semiconductor technology. The modulator operates with a supply voltage of 0.8 V and consumes 5.43 μW of power at the maximum bandwidth of 20 kHz. The obtainable current-sensing resolution ranges from effective number of bits (ENOB) = 7.1 bits at a 5 kHz bandwidth to ENOB = 6.5 bits at a 20 kHz bandwidth (ENOB). The obtained power efficiency (peak FoM = 1.5 pJ/conv) outperforms existing current-mode analog-to-digital converter designs and is comparable with the voltage-mode CT ΣΔ modulators. The modulator generates very low levels of switching noise thanks to CT operation and subthreshold current-mode circuits that draw a constant subthreshold current from the voltage supply. The presented modulator is used as a readout interface for sensors with current-mode output in ultra low-power conditions and is also suitable to perform on-chip current measurements in power management circuits.

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