# Classification of Power Amplifiers

The Power amplifiers amplify the power level of the signal. This amplification is done in the last stage in audio applications. The applications related to radio frequencies employ radio power amplifiers. But the operating point of a transistor, plays a very important role in determining the efficiency of the amplifier. The main classification is done based on this mode of operation.

The classification is done based on their frequencies and also based on their mode of operation.

## Classification Based on Frequencies

Power amplifiers are divided into two categories, based on the frequencies they handle. They are as follows.

• Audio Power Amplifiers − The audio power amplifiers raise the power level of signals that have audio frequency range (20 Hz to 20 KHz). They are also known as Small signal power amplifiers.

• Radio Power Amplifiers − Radio Power Amplifiers or tuned power amplifiers raise the power level of signals that have radio frequency range (3 KHz to 300 GHz). They are also known as large signal power amplifiers.

## Classification Based on Mode of Operation

On the basis of the mode of operation, i.e., the portion of the input cycle during which collector current flows, the power amplifiers may be classified as follows.

• Class A Power amplifier − When the collector current flows at all times during the full cycle of signal, the power amplifier is known as class A power amplifier.

• Class B Power amplifier − When the collector current flows only during the positive half cycle of the input signal, the power amplifier is known as class B power amplifier.

• Class C Power amplifier − When the collector current flows for less than half cycle of the input signal, the power amplifier is known as class C power amplifier.

There forms another amplifier called Class AB amplifier, if we combine the class A and class B amplifiers so as to utilize the advantages of both.

Before going into the details of these amplifiers, let us have a look at the important terms that have to be considered to determine the efficiency of an amplifier.

## Terms Considering Performance

The primary objective of a power amplifier is to obtain maximum output power. In order to achieve this, the important factors to be considered are collector efficiency, power dissipation capability and distortion. Let us go through them in detail.

### Collector Efficiency

This explains how well an amplifier converts DC power to AC power. When the DC supply is given by the battery but no AC signal input is given, the collector output at such a condition is observed as collector efficiency.

The collector efficiency is defined as

$$\eta = \frac{average\: a.c \: power \: output}{average \: d.c \: power\: input\: to \: transistor}$$

For example, if the battery supplies 15W and AC output power is 3W. Then the transistor efficiency will be 20%.

The main aim of a power amplifier is to obtain maximum collector efficiency. Hence the higher the value of collector efficiency, the efficient the amplifier will be.

### Power Dissipation Capacity

Every transistor gets heated up during its operation. As a power transistor handles large currents, it gets more heated up. This heat increases the temperature of the transistor, which alters the operating point of the transistor.

So, in order to maintain the operating point stability, the temperature of the transistor has to be kept in permissible limits. For this, the heat produced has to be dissipated. Such a capacity is called as Power dissipation capability.

Power dissipation capability can be defined as the ability of a power transistor to dissipate the heat developed in it. Metal cases called heat sinks are used in order to dissipate the heat produced in power transistors.

### Distortion

A transistor is a non-linear device. When compared with the input, there occur few variations in the output. In voltage amplifiers, this problem is not pre-dominant as small currents are used. But in power amplifiers, as large currents are in use, the problem of distortion certainly arises.

Distortion is defined as the change of output wave shape from the input wave shape of the amplifier. An amplifier that has lesser distortion, produces a better output and hence considered efficient.