The Zener Diode and Its Functionality Within Electronic Circuits

Posted on August 3, 2021 Jack Kartan Connectors

When discussing bias in relation to diodes and circuitry, one is referring to the establishment of current sets or voltages at various points of an electronic circuit for the means of promoting specific operating conditions for a component. With a standard diode, current may only flow in a single direction, meaning that forward bias will permit flow in a forward direction while reverse bias will impede voltage. With Zener diodes, on the other hand, reverse voltage is impeded until a specific threshold is met, at which point conduction will begin in the reverse direction. To help you better understand the Zener diode and how it differs from standard types, we will discuss its functionality and how it affects the general operations of a circuit.

When a conventional diode is faced with a significant amount of current flowing in reverse, it will eventually begin to face a breakdown or heavy damage as voltage surpasses operational conditions. Despite the Zener diode being fairly similar to a standard PN junction type, it is specifically designed with the intention of exhibiting a low and specified reverse breakdown. As a result, the Zener diode is much more capable of harnessing reverse voltage as it is applied. With their silicon PN junction, the Zener diode will serve as a conventional PN junction diode during standard operations, allowing for a rated current to efficiently pass through it while biased in the forward direction. While a standard diode in a reverse bias will block any current from flowing through it, the Zener diode will conduct current once a preset limitation is met.

Generally, the value at which Zener diodes begin to face breakdown voltage is the same as the Zener voltage (ZV) of the component as it is implemented within a circuit with a reverse bias. As such, the Zener voltage is the point at which the voltage moving across the diode becomes stabilized. This value will often depend upon Zener voltage parts, ranging between less than a volt to hundreds of volts. The Zener voltage value is important for various operations, due to the fact that the voltage across the diode stays constant once the breakdown voltage is surpassed. This means that voltage will remain unchanged even if the current passing through Zener assembly parts increases. With these operational characteristics, Zener diodes are often a very integral part of voltage regulation applications.

When the breakdown threshold is met during reverse bias operation, the diode is known to have entered the Zener region. This is when conduction occurs during a reverse bias condition without causing damage. Furthermore, the current within the Zener region is known as avalanche current, though the term Zener current is often used to describe such conditions for Zener diodes in particular. Once the voltage begins to drop and falls under the preset breakdown value, the Zener diode will return to standard operations and will act as a non-conducting standard diode in reverse bias. To achieve this standard set of operations, the Zener diode is heavily doped with semiconductor materials, and the depletion level of the PN junction and semiconductor doping may be controlled to affect the breakdown voltage value.

When implementing a Zener kit within a circuit, such components often serve to regulate voltage due to their ability to maintain a constant voltage drop. With the addition of having to meet a set threshold for circuit operations, such diodes also allow for all parallel electronic components to receive the same applied voltage. While these operations can be beneficial, there is also the fact that the Zener diode exhibits low ripple during varying load conditions to stabilize loads. Beyond such applications, Zener assembly parts may also benefit surge protectors and generators with their abilities.

With the Zener voltage and breakdown threshold, the Zener diode can functionally act as two different components. As such, its implementation within circuits is much more diverse as compared to various standard diode components. To determine the threshold at which a Zener diode will face a breakdown and conduct reverse current, one may refer to the Zener breakdown voltage (Vz). Generally, such components will follow a fairly vertical straight line that dictates their I-V curve. Once you have determined the circuit elements that you need for your operations, look no further than Just Parts Unlimited.

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