If we had to pick one part to crown as the universal component in the world of analogue electronics, it would have to be the operational amplifier. The humble op-amp can be configured into so many circuit building blocks that it has become an indispensable tool for designers. It’s tempting to treat an op-amp as a triangular black box in a circuit diagram, but understanding its operation gives an insight into analogue electronics that’s worth having. [Mitsuru Yamada]’s homemade op-amp using discrete components is thus a project of interest, implementing as it does a complete simple op-amp with five transistors.
Looking at the circuit diagram it follows the classic op-amp with a long-tailed pair of NPN transistors driving a PNP gain stage and finally a complimentary emitter follower as an output buffer. It incorporates the feedback capacitor that would have been an external component on early op-amp chips, and it has a couple of variable resistors to adjust the bias. Keen eyed readers will notice its flaws such as inevitably mismatched transistors and the lack of a current mirror in the long-tailed pair, but using those to find fault in a circuit built for learning is beside the point. He demonstrated it in use, and even goes as far as to show it running an audio power amplifier driving a small speaker.
For the dedicated student of op-amps, may we suggest further reading as we examine the first integrated circuit op-amp?