An operational amplifier (often op amp or opamp) is a DC-coupled high-gain electronic voltage amplifier with a differential input and, usually, a single-ended output. In this configuration, an op amp produces an output potential (relative to circuit ground) that is typically 100,000 times larger than the potential difference between its input terminals. Operational amplifiers had their origins in analog computers, where they were used to perform mathematical operations in linear, non-linear, and frequency-dependent circuits.
The popularity of the op amp as a building block in analog circuits is due to its versatility. By using negative feedback, the characteristics of an op-amp circuit, its gain, input and output impedance, bandwidth etc. are determined by external components and have little dependence on temperature coefficients or engineering tolerance in the op amp itself.
Op amps are used widely in electronic devices today, including a vast array of consumer, industrial, and scientific devices. Many standard IC op amps cost only a few cents; however, some integrated or hybrid operational amplifiers with special performance specifications may cost over US$100 in small quantities. Op amps may be packaged as components or used as elements of more complex integrated circuits.
The op amp is one type of differential amplifier. Other types of differential amplifier include the fully differential amplifier (similar to the op amp, but with two outputs), the instrumentation amplifier (usually built from three op amps), the isolation amplifier (similar to the instrumentation amplifier, but with tolerance to common-mode voltages that would destroy an ordinary op amp), and negative-feedback amplifier (usually built from one or more op amps and a resistive feedback network).