Tag Archives: ADMS Design AB

Is A/D-converter research becoming a purely academic exercise?

Figure 1. ADC research origin (first author). Absolute amount of papers.

Figure 2. ADC research origin (first author). Relative amount of papers.

Is A/D-converter research becoming a purely academic exercise? Well, looking at the statistics for scientific ADC implementation papers shown in the two graphs above, that certainly seems to be the future for open A/D-converter research. What are the implications, and does it matter?

Figure 1 shows the number of published ADC papers over time, separated into type of origin, as determined by the affiliation of the first author {AcademicInstituteIndustry}. Although a simplification, it is believed to be a fairly accurate indication of where most of the work was done. The term Institute is referring to entities that are neither universities nor traditional companies, i.e., organizations like IMEC. Figure 2 shows the relative amount of contributions from each sector, based on the same data.

Where is corporate ADC research going?

Figure 2 paints a very clear picture: The industrial “market share” of scientific  publications has had a noisy but linear negative trend almost from the start. If the trend holds – and there are actually no signs in the graph that it won’t – there will be no scientific ADC papers from industry published after year 2020–2025! At least not with the first author being from the industry.

I find that quite remarkable and slightly counter-intuitive. Aren’t academic scientists the first to explore the un-explored, and after having spent a lot of time weeding out the less fruitful approaches, they finally come up with something that works? After which the industry wakes up and jumps on the bandwagon? The ADC field appears to do exactly the reverse: After initially been doing 100% of the work, the industry is now gradually letting the universities take over the field.

We are talking about the open research literature here, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no activity within the companies. It just isn’t getting out. So, what do you think:

  • Does the industry feel that there is nothing more to improve or research? If so, why can academic papers still get published?
  • Is the industry increasingly putting a lid on their research to survive the competition?
  • Or is it just a better business to focus on shifting parts, while letting universities innovate and then pick new solutions as they get published?

Quality – not quantity?

On the other hand, industrial contributions report excellent results. A state-of-the-art figure-of-merit (FOM) is a dream target for many research groups. In view of the dwindling industrial publication count, it is interesting to note that the performance of top industrial contributions does not seem to suffer: The overall best Thermal FOM for Nyquist converters was reported for a SAR design by Analog Devices [1], and the scientifically most sought-after world record “Walden FOM” was reported by a group of authors where three out of six were also affiliated with companies (Philips and Axiom IC) [2].


Additional info

The data set used is from an exhaustive survey [3] of ADC papers in journals and at conferences central to the field. After a recent update, the survey covers almost 1600 scientific papers or nearly all ADC implementations ever measured and reported scientifically since 1974. Hence the historical trends shown here should be definitive.

Want to know more?

Do you want to know more about ADC research trends? Are you making strategic decisions relating to data converter technology, research or business? The plots in Figure 1 and Figure 2 are taken from a larger report on ADC research trends that I’m currently working on for ADMS Design AB. The report will be available for purchase after the summer. It will survey ADC research trends from many different angles, and present valuable and truly unique information that is not offered anywhere else.

If you wish to be notified when the report is available, or want to know more, you can contact me at ADMS Design AB.

ADMS Design AB also offers full-custom surveys relating to commercial and scientific ADC trends, technology and business.


[1] C. P. Hurrell, C. Lyden, D. Laing, D. Hummerston, and M. Vickery, “An 18 b 12.5 MS/s ADC with 93 dB SNR”, IEEE J. Solid-State Circuits, Vol. 45, pp. 2647-2654, Dec., 2010.

[2]    M. van Elzakker, E. van Tuijl, P. Geraedts, D. Schinkel, E. Klumperink, and B. Nauta, “A 1.9μW 4.4fJ/Conversion-step 10b 1MS/s charge-redistribution ADC,” Proc. of IEEE Solid-State Circ. Conf. (ISSCC), San Francisco, California, pp. 244–245, Feb., 2008.

[3] B. E. Jonsson, “A survey of A/D-converter performance evolution,” Proc. of IEEE Int. Conf. Electronics Circ. Syst. (ICECS), Athens, Greece, pp. 768–771, Dec., 2010.