Instrumentation Amplifier Basics and Applications

Instrumentation Amplifier Basics and Applications
Instrumentation Amplifier Basics and Applications

Many electrical systems employ instrumentation amplifiers to precisely amplify low-level signals. High precision, accuracy, and common-mode rejection ratio are designed into these amplifiers. Medical instruments, industrial automation, data gathering, and audio signal processing use them. Electronics and instrumentation engineers and technicians must understand instrumentation amplifier basics and applications.

This article explains instrumentation amplifiers and gives examples of their use. We’ll explain internal circuitry visually without numbers. These amplifiers are simple and utilized in many electronic devices you use daily. By the end, you’ll understand instrumentation amplifier fundamentals and be ready to learn about their applications. Let’s begin!

Instrumentation Amplifier Basics and Applications
Instrumentation Amplifier Basics and Applications

Electronic system instrumentation amplifier importance

Electronic systems that require precision and accuracy need instrumentation amplifiers. These amplifiers accurately measure and condition signals by increasing the difference between two input signals and rejecting common-mode signals. High gain, high input impedance, and low output impedance make them useful for medical instruments, industrial automation, data acquisition, and audio signal processing. Their accurate low-level signal handling makes them essential in many electrical designs.

Instrumentation and amplifier advantages

Electronic systems benefit from instrumentation amplifiers. These amplifiers accurately amplify differential signals while rejecting common-mode noise due to their high CMRR. Second, their high input impedance reduces source circuit loading and ensures reliable signal measurement. Thirdly, instrumentation amplifiers can precisely amplify signals with adjustable gain levels. Low output impedance allows signal transfer without loss. Instrumentation amplifiers are essential in many electronic designs due to their benefits.

An instrument amplifier?

An instrumentation amplifier (in-amp) is a precision amplifier for small differential signals. High input impedance, low noise, high CMRR, and high gain accuracy characterize in-amps.

In-Amp Functions

Three op-amps form a differential amplifier in in-amps. The input impedance of two op-amps is considerable. Differential input signals are amplified while common-mode inputs are rejected. A gain stage in the third op-amp amplifies the differential signal.

  • One resistor sets gain, making in-amps straightforward to modify for individual applications.
  • In-amps monitor voltage without loading the source due to high input impedance.
  • In-amps reject noise and interference from both inputs with high CMRR.
  • DC accuracy is high due to low offset and drift.

In-Amp Uses

Ideal for in-amps:

  1. Measure low-voltage strain gages, thermocouples, and current sensors with sensor signal conditioning.
  2. Oscilloscopes, medical equipment, data collecting systems use precision measurement.
  3. In-amps reject motor, power supply, and environmental noise, removing common-mode signals.
  4. With separated power sources, in-amps can safely segregate inputs and outputs.

Choose the correct in-amp to measure and amplify differential signals precisely and easily. These unsung signal conditioning and measuring heroes belong in every electrical toolset.

Key Instrumentation Amplifier Features and Benefits

Several features make instrumentation amplifiers useful for certain applications.

A high common-mode rejection ratio

Instrument amplifiers can enhance only the input difference by rejecting undesired signals common to both inputs. Their high common-mode rejection ratio (CMRR) makes them handy in noisy or interfering inputs.

Adjustable Gain

Instrumentation amplifiers can be simply changed for gain and amplification factor with an external resistor. This allows the same amplifier to be used for different input voltages by altering one resistor.

High Input Impedance

Instrumentation amplifiers draw little current from inputs due to their high input impedance. They can be used with high-impedance sources like strain gages, thermocouples, and other sensors without decreasing their outputs.


Flexible instrument amplifiers are utilized in industrial, medical, and consumer applications like:

  • Conditioning sensor signals
  • Bridge amplifier
  • A thermocouple amplifier

Isolated amplifier

Instrumentation amplifiers are essential to many electrical systems and circuits because to their versatility. They can offer accurate, noise-free signal amplification for a variety of input signals in your designs.

Instrument Amplifier Setups

Instrumentation amplifiers are configured for different uses. Three most common are:


The simplest setup is inverting. The inverting input terminal receives the signal, while the non-inverting input is grounded. This makes the output 180° out of phase with the input. Signal inversion and audio mixing are possible with inverting amplifiers.


The non-inverting input terminal receives the input signal. A feedback network controls gain for the inverting input. The output signal is in phase with the input since it is not inverted. For signal phase preservation, non-inverting amplifiers are used.


The differential amplifier layout uses both input terminals, with the input signal applied to the non-inverting terminal and a reference signal to the inverting terminal. Differentiating the input signals yields the output. Differential amplifiers boost input voltage differences while rejecting common signals. This reduces noise and interference.

Instrument amplifiers are useful for sensor signal conditioning, data collecting, and measuring instruments. Understanding setups lets you choose the correct instrumentation amplifier.

Instrumentation Amplifier Uses

Many uses for instrumentation amplifiers. Some of their main applications are:

Measure Small Signals

For monitoring and amplifying tiny signals from thermocouples, strain gages, and light detectors, instrument amplifiers are perfect. Their high input impedance avoids sensor loading, and their low noise figure and high CMMR amplify small signals while rejecting noise and interference.

Conditioning Sensor Signals

Instrumentation amplifiers can scale sensor output to match ADC or other electronics’ input range due to their adjustable gain. High precision and accuracy allow offset, gain, and linearity correction of sensor signals.

Rejecting Noise

Instrumentation amplifiers may amplify small differential signals despite high common-mode noise voltages due to their high CMRR. They are important for electrocardiogram (ECG) monitoring, which requires extracting the tiny heart signal from noisy electrode connections.


Some instrumentation amplifiers use optocouplers or transformers to isolate their input and output stages. The amplifier may securely connect to high common-mode voltage sources due to this isolation. Motor control feedback and medical monitoring use isolated instrumentation amps.

Instrumentation amplifiers excel in low-noise measurement and signal conditioning. Even with severe interference and noise, their adjustable gain, high input impedance, and excellent noise rejection allow small sensor signals to be amplified and processed.

Right Instrumentation Amplifier for Your Application

Choosing an instrumentation amplifier for your application involves various criteria. Most important:

Input/Output Range

The input and output voltage ranges decide if the amplifier can handle system signals. If your sensors output 0-10V but the amplifier only allows 0-1V, it won’t function. Output range must match amplifier input range.


Amplification should be suitable. Too high a gain can overload following circuits, while too low won’t enhance the signal. For flexibility, several instrumentation amps allow external gain adjustment with resistors.

Offset Voltage

Your signal and input DC voltage are amplified. Too high a “offset voltage” can decrease the amplifier’s input range. Select an amp with a low maximum offset and adjust as needed.


Range of frequencies an amp can accurately amplify depends on bandwidth. A bandwidth of 10 Hz to 10 kHz suits most applications. High-speed data acquisition systems may demand 250 kHz or higher frequencies.

Impedance Input

The amplifier cannot load sensors or other signal sources due to high input impedance. High values of 100 kΩ or above are typical and promote signal integrity.


Low noise equals cleaner signal. Check the amp’s noise levels to make sure it fits your signal. For measuring tiny signals, precision instrumentation amps with low noise are optimal.

You’ll find the right instrumentation amplifier by matching these traits to your demands. Your system will work well with accurate, noise-free signal amplification.

4. Design thoughts

For maximum performance, instrumentation amplifier design must consider various elements.

Impedance Input

To avoid signal source loading, input impedance should be high. FET-input IAs typically have input impedances of 10^12 ohms or higher. The IA cannot take too much current from the source and distort the measured signal.


Flexibility is provided via an external resistor setting IA gain. IAs offer 1 to 10,000 or more gains. Precision, low-tolerance gain resistors are needed for accurate gain settings.

Common-Mode Rejection Ratio

IA performance is measured by its ability to reject common-mode signals applied equally to both input terminals. CMRR is the input-to-output common-mode signal ratio in dB. Better CMRR is 100 dB or greater. This assures the output only shows the differential input signal, not common-mode signals.

Output Swing

Maximum output voltage range, or output swing, of the IA should accommodate predicted input signal range. If the input saturates or clips the output, the signal is distorted. Up to the supply voltage, a bigger output swing is beneficial.

Supply Voltage

The supplied voltage range must match your application. Low supply voltages (±5V or below) are typical for battery-powered or portable electronics. Wider dynamic range is achieved with higher voltages (±15V or more). greater power consumption comes with greater supply voltages.

Consider input impedance, gain, CMRR, output swing, and supply voltage to choose an instrumentation amplifier that meets your application needs. The best IA for your design optimizes performance while balancing cost and power.


A brief introduction to instrumentation amplifiers. You now know how these sophisticated circuits can magnify signals without noise. You’ve seen them measure temperature, pressure, and more in all types of equipment. Who knew three op amps and a few resistors could do so much?

You’ll know an instrumentation amplifier is working to give you a precise reading when you utilize a digital thermometer or blood pressure cuff. These are engineering wonders. Online instrumentation amplifier details and application notes are abundant. For now, you have the basics. Try building a rudimentary IA circuit to watch these hidden heroes of analog signal conditioning in action!

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