LTM2893 μModule isolator for ADCs

Analog to digital converters (ADCs) need to float to the common mode of the input signal to absorb the harsh voltage conditions and transients. The best way to do this is to place an isolation barrier between the ADC and the external signal. Even applications that perform under moderate conditions can benefit from the presence of an isolator. The LTM2893 from Linear Technology provides such isolation, improving on system safety, especially when reading from high-resolution successive approximation register type of ADCs.

Ideally, the isolator for an ADC should be near invisible. Its function would be to manage the control and data signals, maximizing the sampling rate, and minimizing the effects of jitter on the performance of signal to noise ratio. The LTM2893 μModule isolator from Linear Technology meets all the above criteria, achieving these for ADCs with SPI interfaces, offers a 1 Msps range, while supporting a 6K Vrms isolation rating.

Options that are more traditional exist, but provide limited functionality, especially when reading data from high-resolution successive approximation register (SAR) ADCs. Most traditional high speed digital isolators work maximum up to 25 MHz, with a few special devices reaching 40 MHz On the other hand, the LTM2893 can easily read data samples at rates up to 100 MHz. Additionally, it is flexible enough to be able to handle multiple ADCs. This effectively solves timing issues and other limitations of the standard digital isolator interfacing that SAR ADCs face.

Test and process equipment need isolation so that their inputs are not damaged if accidentally misconnected or from overvoltage events. Usually, engineers use an isolator as a high voltage level shifter for extending the common mode range thereby reducing the ground noise. The LTM2893 is intelligent enough to ignore transients events of the common mode type up to 50K V/μs, as this provides a low-capacitance isolation barrier along with fully differential data communication.

When dedicated SPI isolators and other general-purpose digital isolators isolate ADCs, they use multiple digital isolators for supporting signals such as busy status or conversion start signals. In addition, they offer a 3- or 4-wire SPI port. They also suffer from signal propagation delays, as the isolated SPI port must wait for the return of the acknowledgement signal before the next data latching can occur. Adding all the propagation and the response delays from the ADC SPI port, a single read may suffer a delay of about 35 ns. Therefore, although the initially rating of a digital isolator may be at 150 Mbps, in reality, the delays reduce the effective frequency to 25 MHz or even less.

Linear Technology has provided the LTM2893 with a dedicated master SPI engine on its isolated side, and a dedicated slave engine and a buffer on the logic side. The master SPI engine of the LTM2893 monitors the status signals from the ADC, fetching the data as soon as its BUSY signal goes low. There is no interaction with the logic side once the conversion has started.

The buffer register on the slave SPI engine on the logic side receives data from the isolated side via the isolated barrier. The two sides therefore, operate independently of each other.