What Are the Functions of a Zener Diode?

What Are the Functions of a Zener Diode?
••• Movzx

Zener diodes are silicon diodes specifically constructed to operate in what is known as the breakdown region. For this reason, they are also referred to as voltage-regulator diodes.

Breakdown Voltage

Weber

The maximum voltage rating specifies how much reverse voltage a diode can withstand before breakdown occurs. For most, this is at least 50 V. Ordinary diodes that are reverse-biased have reverse current that is so small as to be zero, so that the diode behaves similar to an open circuit. When the maximum voltage rating is exceeded, however, a large reverse current is produced, and the diode becomes destroyed. This destruction occurs at what is known as the reverse breakdown voltage or peak inverse voltage (PIV). Zener diodes are created to operate optimally when they are reverse-biased and, instead of being destroyed, will conduct electricity under conditions where normal a diode's breakdown voltages are reached. Zener diode breakdown voltages can range from 2 to 200 V.

Significance

The diodes are able to maintain constant output voltages throughout current changes in the circuit, thus stabilizing the voltage under different loads. They are therefore most often used as voltage regulators for low current circuits. They can protect circuits from voltage spikes or overloads or static electricity. Zener diodes are also often used to generate reference voltages for amplifier circuits.

Operation

Rohitbd

For voltage regulation, Zener diodes are placed into circuits in a reverse-biased position parallel to the load, as shown.

Uses

Zener diodes are found in devices such as power supplies and surge protectors.

Expert Insight

The diodes operate on what is known as the Zener Effect. The p-n junction is heavily doped, which causes it to become narrow and obtain an intense electric field. When reverse biased, this intense electric field causes ionization where electrons are pulled away from their valence orbits, so that they become free and can flow.

Related Articles

What Is a Varactor Diode?
1N4007 Diode Specs
How to Read Zener Diode Ratings
What Is a Flyback Diode?
Characteristics of a Diode Detector
Uses of a Diode
Types & Functions of Capacitors
What Are Resistors Used for?
How to Calculate Ohms to Microfarads
What Is a Momentary Action Switch?
What Is the Function of a Voltage Regulator?
How to Calculate Voltages in Transistors
AC Vs. DC Solenoids & How They Work
AC & DC Characteristics
What Is an Open Diode?
How Does a Rectifier Work?
What Is an Electric Relay?
How to Make a Battery With Capacitors
How to Diagnose a Circuit Board With a Bad Transistor
How to Read Transistor Data