Other Parts Discussed in Thread: ISO1540
1. Can the ISO1640 be used as an ordinary I2C buffer, i.e. shorting GND1 and GND2?
2. What's the case for the ISO1540?
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Most isolators have two independent circuits in the IC which operate independently and can be connected to two completely independent / isolated power supplies. Since they operate independently, connecting their grounds together doesn't make any difference in their operation and they will still continue to work independently but referenced to the same ground point. Shorting of GND1 and GND2 will short the isolation barrier but the functionality remains intact. Hence, you can go ahead use it as a normal buffer without any issues.
Thus, both ISO1640 and ISO1540 can be used with GND1 and GND2 shorted without any issues. But please note that there are already many I2C buffers in TI which are going to be relatively cheaper, hence, it is economical to use the already existing non-isolated I2C buffers.
Let me know if you have any questions, thanks.