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Universal Serial Bus (USB) Hub Isolator Circuit (cn0158)

The universal serial bus (USB) is rapidly becoming the standard interface for most PC peripherals. It is displacing RS-232 and the parallel printer port because of superior speed, flexibility, and support of device hot swap. There has been a strong desire on the part of industrial and medical equipment manufacturers to use the bus as well, but adoption has been slow because there has not been a good way to provide the isolation required for connections to machines that control dangerous voltages or low leakage defibrillation proof connections in medical applications.

The ADuM4160 is designed primarily as an isolation element for a peripheral USB device. However, there are occasions when it is useful to isolate a host device. Several issues must be addressed to use the ADuM4160 for this application. Whereas the buffers on the upstream and downstream sides of the ADuM4160 are the same and capable of driving a USB cable, the downstream buffers must be capable of adjusting speed to a full or low speed peripheral that is connected to it.

Unlike the case of building a dedicated peripheral interface where the speed is known and not changed, host applications must adapt. The ADuM4160 is intended to be hardwired to a single speed via pins; therefore, it works when the peripheral plugged into its downstream side is the correct speed, but it fails when the wrong speed peripheral is attached. The best way to address this is to combine the ADuM4160 with a hub controller.

The upstream side of a hub controller can be thought of as a standard fixed speed peripheral port that can be easily isolated with the ADuM4160, whereas the speed of the downstream ports is handled by the hub controller. The hub controller converts peripherals of different speeds to match the upstream port speed. The circuit shown in Figure 1 shows how a two-port hub chip can be used to isolate two downstream host ports in a design that can be made fully compliant with the USB specification.

Figure 1. USB Cable Isolator Circuit

The ADuM4160 provides an inexpensive and easy to implement isolation buffer for medical and industrial peripherals. The challenge that must be met is to use this to create a fully com-pliant host port by pairing the ADuM4160 with a hub chip. As with isolating any peripheral device, the services that the ADuM4160 and hub provide are as follows:

  1. Directly isolates, in the upstream, the USB D+ and D− lines of a hub chip, allowing the hub to manage the downstream host port activity.
  2. Implements an automatic scheme for data flow of control that does not require external control lines.
  3. Provides medical grade isolation.
  4. Allows creation of one or more host ports that meet the USB-IF certification standards.
  5. Supports full speed signaling rates.
  6. Supports flexible power configurations.

The goal of the application circuit is to isolate a hub as if it were a full speed peripheral device. The hub or host function requires that 2.5 W of power be available to each downstream port. Power to run the downstream side of the isolator and power the hub and ports is provided as part of the solution. The application circuit is typical of many medical and industrial applications.


  • Isolates and multiplexes two devices into a single USB port
  • Standard USB interface


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