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How to estimate DAC power in step response mode?

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Newbie level 6
Jan 6, 2011
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Hello guys. I recently need to design a circuit (no need for fabrication but need to make it technologically practical) which has the capability of outputing constant voltage pulses. The amplitude and width of the pulses should be controllable.

I am considering using DAC, however because I am not an analog IC designer there are several issues that I am not very sure about.

Q1. How to estimate the power consumption of the DAC in the my proposed scenario? I guess a datasheet generally specifies the power of a DAC at the state of outputing a steady sinusoidal signal, and the power is approximately propoertional to the sampling frequency. However in my scenario, the DAC does not work in continuous mode, rather, it may output a 10ns pulse every 100ns (I call it step response mode). How do I model the power consumption then?

Q2. Does the DAC power specified on datasheet usually include the power consumed by its load? I see some datasheet saying the DAC can output up to 5mA current, is this (5mA * R_load) power considered as part of DAC consumed power?

Q3. What is the typical settling time of a DAC? Is it related to the sampling frequency? For example for a DAC capable of working at 1GHz, how long does it usually take to get a 95% close output voltage after the input is applied? (And besides, what is a typical settling time of an 1GHz ADC working in step response mode?)

Q4. Consider about state-of-the-art situation, for an 8-bit 1GHz DAC, what is the best power performance nowadays?

Any help is appreciated!

High speed DACs are operated with continuous clock, in so far the discontinuous or continuous nature of transmitted signal doesn't change much to it's power consumption. They are usually providing complementary current outputs, means that total output current is constant independent of signal magnitude.

Setting time of different types is probably different, a GS/s DAC may have rise/fall times in a 100 ps range and < 1% settling within 1 ns. But technology is still advancing in this range, you should really review data sheets of actual devices.

Circuits in the said speed range will preferably use 50 ohm impedance matching, the DAC output is at best 10 or 20 mA respectively 0.5 or 1 V. Depending on your application, getting the actual output signal can be more a problem of finding suitable wideband amplifiers.

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