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Low Power And High Efficiency Can Degrade Performance Significantly

The general industry trend is to make electronic products more efficient and, in general, consume less energy. One of the major considerations is to minimize the standby power of electronic circuits. This trend would seem to be commendable when viewed as an effort to be more conscious of our environment and when going “green.” The constant demand for smaller, smarter electronics with longer battery life also dictates higher efficiency and lower standby power. Is it possible, however, there can be a downside to improving efficiency?

Let’s consider a frequently used building block, the Low Noise Amplifier, or LNA. These amplifiers are generally less than 10% efficient and yet they are still used in critical applications for their superior linearity, very low harmonic content and ultra-low noise. It seems odd that it is necessary, or even appropriate, to power such an amplifier with a very high efficiency power supply, and yet the current trend in power electronics is ONLY towards on highly efficient power supplies as a one size fits all solution. A similar argument could be presented with regards to low jitter clocks — the heart of most digital circuits.

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