Module 5.3

D Type Flip-flops

What you´ll learn in Module 5.3
  • After studying this section, you should be able to:
  • Understand the operation of D Type flip-flops and can:
  • • Describe typical applications for D Type flip-flops.
  • • Recognize standard circuit symbols for D Type flip-flops.
  • • Recognize D Type flip-flop integrated circuits.
  • Recognise alternative forms of D Type flip-flops.
  • • Edge triggered D Type flip-flops.
  • • Toggle flip-flops.
  • • Stuff.
  • Construct timing diagrams to explain the operation of D Type flip-flops.
  • Use software to simulate D Type flip-flops.



Fig. 5.3.1 Level Triggered D Type Flip-flop


D Type Flip-flops

The major drawback of the SR flip-flop (i.e. its indeterminate output and non-allowed logic states) described in Digital Electronics Module 5.2 is overcome by the D type flip-flop. This flip-flop, shown in Fig. 5.3.1 together with its truth table and a typical schematic circuit symbol, may be called a Data flip-flop because of its ability to ‘latch’ and remember data, or a Delay flip-flop because latching and remembering data can be used to create a delay in the progress of that data through a circuit. To avoid the ambiguity in the title therefore, it is usually known simply as the D Type. The simplest form of D Type flip-flop is basically a high activated SR type with an additional inverter to ensure that the S and R inputs cannot both be high or both low at the same time. This simple modification prevents both the indeterminate and non-allowed states of the SR flip-flop. The S and R inputs are now replaced by a single D input, and all D type flip-flops have a clock input.


As long as the clock input is low, changes at the D input make no difference to the outputs. The truth table in Fig. 5.3.1 shows this as a ‘don’t care’ state (X). The basic D Type flip-flop shown in Fig. 5.3.1 is called a level triggered D Type flip-flop because whether the D input is active or not depends on the logic level of the clock input.

Provided that the CK input is high (at logic 1), then whichever logic state is at D will appear at output Q and (unlike the SR flip-flops) Q is always the inverse of Q).

In Fig. 5.3.1, if D = 1, then S must be 1 and R must be 0, therefore Q is SET to 1.


If D = 0 then R must be 1 and S must be 0, causing Q to be reset to 0.

The Data Latch

The name Data Latch refers to a D Type flip-flop that is level triggered, as the data (1 or 0) appearing at D can be held or ‘latched’ at any time whilst the CK input is at a high level (logic 1).

As can be seen from the timing diagram shown in Fig 5.3.2, if the data at D changes during this time, the Q output assumes the same logic level as the D.


Fig. 5.3.2 Timing Diagram for a Level Triggered D Type Flip-flop

Ripple Through

Fig. 5.3.2 also illustrates a possible problem with the level triggered D type flip-flop; if there are changes in the data during period when the clock pulse is at its high level, the logic state at Q changes in sympathy with D, and only ‘remembers’ the last input state that occurred during the clock pulse, (period RT in Fig. 5.3.2). This effect is called ‘Ripple Through’, and although this allows the level triggered D Type flip-flop to be used as a data switch, only allowing data through from D to Q as long as CK is held at logic 1, this may not be a desirable property in many types of circuit.


Fig. 5.3.3 Edge Triggered D Type Flip-Flop with Set and Reset


The Edge Triggered D Type Flip-flop

Fortunately ripple though can be largely prevented by using the Edge Triggered D Type flip-flop illustrated in Fig 5.3.3.

The clock pulse applied to the flip-flop is reduced to a very narrow positive going clock pulse of only about 45ns duration, by using an AND gate and applying the clock pulse directly to input ‘a’ but delaying its arrival at input ‘b’ by passing it through 3 inverters. This inverts the pulse and also delays it by three propagation delays, (about 15ns per inverter gate for 74HC series gates). The AND gate therefore produces logic 1 at its output only for the 45ns when both ‘a’ and ‘b’ are at logic 1 after the rising edge of the clock pulse.

Synchronous and Asynchronous Inputs

A further refinement in Fig. 5.3.3 is the addition of two further inputs SET and RESET, which are actually the original S and R inputs of the basic low activated SR flip-flop.


Fig. 5.3.4 Edge Triggered D Type Flip-Flop

Notice that there is now a subtle difference between the active low Set (S) and Reset (R) inputs, and the D input. The D input is SYNCHRONOUS, that is its action is synchronised with the clock, but the S and R inputs are ASYNCHRONOUS i.e. their action is NOT synchronised with the clock. The SET and RESET inputs in Fig 5.3.4 are ‘low activated’, which is shown by the inversion circles at the S and R inputs to indicate that they are really S and R.

The flip-flop is positive edge triggered, which is shown on the CK input in Fig 5.3.4 by the wedge symbol. A wedge accompanied by an inversion circle would indicate negative (falling) edge triggering, though this is generally not used on D Type flip-flops.


Fig. 5.3.5 Typical Schematic Symbols for D Type Edge Triggered Flip-Flops


Timing Diagram

The ‘Edge triggered D type flip-flop with asynchronous preset and clear capability’, although developed from the basic SR flip-flop becomes a very versatile flip-flop with many uses. A timing diagram illustrating the action of a positive edge triggered device is shown in Fig. 5.3.5.

At the positive going edges of clock pulses a and b, the D input is high so Q is also high.

Just before pulse c the D input goes low, so at the positive going edge of pulse c, Q goes low.

Between pulses c and d the asynchronous S input goes low and immediately sets Q high.

The flip-flop then ignores pulse d while S is low, but as S returns high, and D has also returned to its high state before pulse e, Q remains high during pulse e.

At the positive going edge of pulse h, the low level of input D remains, keeping Q low, but between pulses h and i, the S input goes low, overriding any action of D and immediately making Q high.

D is still high at the positive going edge of pulse f, and because the flip-flop is positive edge triggered, the change in the logic level of D during pulse f is ignored until the positive going edge of pulse g, which resets Q to its low level.

Clock pulse i is again ignored, due to S being in its active low state and Q remains high, under the control of S until just before pulse j. At the positive going edge of pulse j, input D regains control, but as D is high and Q is already high, no change in output Q occurs.

Finally, just before pulse k, the asynchronous reset input (R) goes low and resets Q to its low level (logic 0), which again causes the D input to be ignored.

Edge triggered D Type Flip-flop Summary:

• At the positive going edge of a CK pulse, Q will assume the same level as input D, unless either asynchronous input has control.

• A logic 0 on the asynchronous input S at any time will cause Q to be set to logic 1 from the time S goes low, until the first CK pulse after S returns to logic 1.

• A logic 0 on the asynchronous input R will cause Q to be reset to logic 0 from the time R goes low, until the first CK pulse after R returns to logic 1.

• The action of the asynchronous inputs overrides any effect of the D input.

• Both asynchronous inputs should not be low at the same time, as both Q and Q will be at logic 1. This is a non-allowed state.


Fig. 5.3.6 The D Type Master Slave Flip-flop


The D Type Master Slave Flip-Flop

Yet a further version of the D Type flip-flop is shown in Fig. 5.3.6 where two D type flip-flops are incorporated in a single device, this is the D type master-slave flip-flop. Circuit symbols for the master-slave device are very similar to those for edgetriggered flip-flops, but are now divided into two sections by a dotted line, as also illustrated in Fig 5.3.6.

FF1 (the master flip-flop) is a positive edge triggered device, and an inverted version of the CK pulse is fed from the main CK input to FF2 (the slave), also positive edge triggered. Notice that although the clock inputs on the circuit symbols suggest that this is a negative edge triggered device, data is actually taken into FF1 on the POSITIVE going edge of the CK pulse. The data also of course appears at q1 at this time, but as the CK pulse is inverted at ck2, FF2 is seeing a falling edge at the same time, so ignores the data on d2.

After the positive going edge of the external CK pulse, FF1 ignores any further data at D, and at the negative going edge of the external CK pulse, the data being held at q1 is taken into the d2 input of FF2 which now sees a positive going edge of the inverted CK pulse. Therefore data is taken into D at the positive going (rising) edge of the CK pulse, and then appears at Q at the negative going (falling) edge of the CK pulse.


Fig. 5.3.7 Timing Diagram for a D Type Master-Slave Flip-flop

Considering the master slave flip-flop as a single device, the relationship between the clock (CK) input and the Q output does look rather like a negative edge triggered device, as any change in the output occurs at the falling edge of the clock pulse. However, as illustrated in Fig. 5.3.7 this is not really negative edge triggering, because the data appearing at Q as the clock pulse returns to logic 0, is actually the data that was present at input D at the RISING edge of the CK pulse. Any further changes that may occur in data at the D input during the clock pulse are ignored. D type master-slave flip-flops are also available with asynchronous S and R inputs making it a very versatile device indeed.

The Toggle Flip-flop


Fig. 5.3.8 An Edge Triggered D Type Converted to a Toggle Flip-flop

Toggle flip-flops are the basic components of digital counters, and all of the D type devices are adaptable for such use. When an electronic counter is used for counting, what are actually being counted are pulses appearing at the CK input, which may be either regular pulses derived from an internal clock, or they can be irregular pulses generated by some external event.

When a toggle flip-flop is used as one stage of a counter, its Q output changes to the opposite state, (it toggles) high or low on each clock pulse. Most edge-triggered flip-flops can be used as toggle flip-flops including the D type, which can be converted to a toggle flip-flop with a simple modification. In theory all that is necessary to convert an edge triggered D Type to a T type is to connect the Q output directly to the D input as shown in Fig. 5.3.8. The actual input is now CK. The effect of this mode of operation is also shown in the timing diagram in Fig. 5.3.8 using a positive edge triggered D type flip-flop.

Toggle Flip-flop Operation

Suppose that initially CK and Q = 0. Then Q and D must be 1. At the rising edge of a CK pulse, the logic 1 at D is allowed into the flip-flop and, at the end of the flip-flop’s propagation delay, appears at Q, and Q changes to logic 0 at the same time.

This logic 0 is now fed back to D, but it is important that it is not immediately accepted into the D input, otherwise oscillation could occur with D continually changing between 1 and 0. However, because of the flip-flop’s propagation delay, when the logic 0 from Q arrives at D, the very short edge-triggering period will have completed, and the change in data at D will be ignored.

At the next CK rising edge of the clock signal, the 0 at D now passes to Q, making Q and D logic 1 again. The Q output of the flip-flop therefore toggles at each positive going edge of the CK pulse.

Because the Q output changes state at each clock pulse rising edge, the 0 period and the 1 period of the Q output will always be of equal length, and the output will be a square wave with a 1:1 mark to space ratio, its frequency will be half that of CK.

To use toggle flip-flops as simple binary counters, a number of toggle flip-flops may be connected in cascade, with the Q output of the first flip-flop in the series, being connected to the CK input of the next flip-flop and so on. This is also the principle of frequency division. Exactly how counters and dividers can be constructed from toggle flip-flops is explained in Sequential Logic Module 5.6.

Data Timing

In practice however, using direct feedback from Q to D can cause problems as, to ensure stable operation and avoid unwanted oscillation, it is important in any digital circuit, that any changes in logic level taking place at D must be both stable, (free from any overshoot or ringing etc.) and at a valid logic level during a short period, before and after the clock signal causes a change. These periods are called the set up and hold times.


Fig. 5.3.9 Clocked Logic Set Up and Hold Times

Although it is easy to think of the clock signal initiating a change at a particular time, e.g. when its rising edge occurs, data is actually clocked into input D when the CK waveform reaches a certain voltage level. In 74HC series gates this level is 50% of VDD, as illustrated in Fig 5.3.9. This shows in expanded time detail, the transitions taking place at the D and CK inputs of a D type positive edge triggered flip-flop.

To guarantee correct triggering, it is important that the data at the D input has settled at a valid logic level before the clock signal triggers any change. Therefore there must be some time allowed from when the D input first becomes valid to allow time for any slow rising pulse, any overshoot or ringing to occur before the clock pulse samples the logic level.

For example, the time between point (a) in Fig.5.3.9, where D initially falls below 50% of VDD and the time when CK rises to its trigger threshold of 50% VDD (point b) is called the set up time (tsetup or tsu), and in 74HC series ICs this will typically be between 5ns and 15ns.

After the trigger point there must be a further period (b to c in Fig. 5.3.9) where the data at D must remain at the same valid logic level to ensure that the correct logic level has been accepted. This is called the hold time (thold or th) and is typically around 3ns in 74HC series ICs.

In sequential logic circuits, precise timing is vitally important. The design of a circuit must take into consideration not only set up and hold times but also the propagation times of gates or flip-flops in each path that a digital signal takes through a circuit. Failure to get the timing right can lead to problems such as ‘glitches’ i.e. sudden sharp spikes, as a device such as a flip-flop momentarily produces a change from one logic level to another and back again. Such glitches may be very short (a few nanoseconds) but sufficient to trigger another device to a wrong logic level.

With devices such as flip-flops using both triggering and feedback, incorrect timing can also lead to instability and unwanted oscillations. Avoiding such problems is a major reason for the use of edge triggering and master slave devices.

D Type Flip-flop ICs

A selection of D type Flip-flop ICs are listed below.

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