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BED11103; Introduction To Electronic

2. Diode Application Zener Diodes

Chapter 2. Page 1

ZENER DIODES
A major application for Zener diodes is providing stable reference voltages. In this
section, you will see how the Zener diode maintains a nearly constant dc voltage under
the proper operating conditions. You will learn the conditions and limitations for
properly using the Zener diode and the factors that affect its performance.
After completing this section, you should be able to
Describe the characteristics of a Zener diode and analyze its operation
Identify a Zener diode by its symbol
Discuss avalanche and Zener breakdown
Analyze the V-I characteristic curve of a Zener diode
Discuss the Zener equivalent circuit

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UniKL BMI

BED11103; Introduction To Electronic


2. Diode Application Zener Diodes

Chapter 2. Page 2

1. A Zener diode is a silicon pn junction device that is designed for operation in the
reverse-breakdown region.
2. If a Zener diode is forward-biased, it operates the same as a rectifier diode.

ZENER BREAKDOWN
1. Zener diodes are designed to operate in reverse breakdown at low reverse
voltages.
2. Zeners are commercially available with breakdown voltages of 1.8 V to 200 V
with specified tolerances from 1% to 20%.

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UniKL BMI

BED11103; Introduction To Electronic


2. Diode Application Zener Diodes

Chapter 2. Page 3

Breakdown Characteristics
1. Figure 1 shows the reverse portion of a Zener diode's characteristic curve.
2. At the reverse voltage (VR) is increased, the reverse current (IR) remains small
up to the "knee" of the curve.
3. The reverse current is also
called the Zener current, Iz.
4. At this point, the breakdown
effect begins; the internal
Zener resistance, also called
Zener impedance (ZZ), begins
to decrease as the reverse
current increases rapidly.
5. From the bottom of the knee,
the Zener breakdown voltage
(VZ),

slightly

remains

essentially constant although


it increases as the Zener
current, Iz, increases.

FIGURE 1

Reverse characteristic of a zener

diode. VZ is usually specified at the zener test


current, IZT, and is designated VZT.

ZENER EQUIVALENT CIRCUIT


1. Figure 2(a) shows the ideal model of a Zener diode in reverse breakdown.
2. It has a constant voltage drop equal to the small Zener voltage.

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UniKL BMI

BED11103; Introduction To Electronic


2. Diode Application Zener Diodes

Chapter 2. Page 4

3. The dc source indicates the effect of reverse breakdown is a constant voltage


across the Zener terminals.

FIGURE 2

Zener diode equivalent circuit models

and the characteristic curve illustrating ZZ.

4. Figure 2(b) represents the practical model of a Zener diode, where the Zener
impedance (Zz) is included.
5. A change in Zener current (Iz) produces a small change in Zener voltage (Vz),
as illustrated in Figure 2(c).
ZZ =

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Vz
Iz

UniKL BMI

BED11103; Introduction To Electronic


2. Diode Application Zener Diodes

Chapter 2. Page 5

ZENER DIODE APPLICATIONS


The Zener diode can be used as a type of voltage regulator for providing stable
reference voltages.
Zener Regulation with a Varying Input Voltage
1. Figure 3 illustrates how a Zener diode can be used to regulate a varying voltage.
2. However, as VIN changes, Iz will change, the limitations on the input voltage
variation are set by the minimum and maximum current values (IZK and IZM)
with which the Zener can operate.
3. Resistor (R) in the series as are current-limiting resistor.

FIGURE 3 Zener regulation of a varying input voltage.

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UniKL BMI

BED11103; Introduction To Electronic


2. Diode Application Zener Diodes

Chapter 2. Page 6

EXAMPLE
1. To illustrate regulation, suppose that the 1N4740 10V Zener diode in Figure 4
can maintain regulation over a range of Zener current values from IZK = 0.25 mA
to IzM= 100 mA. From the data sheet, PD(max) = 1 watt and Vz = 10 V.

IZM =

PD(max)
Vz

= 100mA

2. For the minimum Zener current, the voltage across the 220 resistor is,
i. VR = IZKR = (0.25 mA)(220 ) = 55 mV
3. Since VR = VIN VZ,
i. VIN(min) = VR + Vz = 55 mV + 10V = 10.055 V

4. For the maximum Zener current,IZM the voltage across the 220 resistor is
i. VR = IZMR = (100 mA)(220 ) = 22 V
5. Therefore,
i. VIN(max) = 22 V + 10 V = 32 V
6. This shows that this Zener diode can regulate an input voltage from 10.055 V
until 32 V to maintain an approximate 10V output.

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UniKL BMI

BED11103; Introduction To Electronic


2. Diode Application Zener Diodes

Chapter 2. Page 7

ZENER LIMITING
In addition to voltage regulation applications, Zener diodes can be used in ac
applications to limit voltage swings to desired levels.
Figure 5 shows three basic ways the limiting action of a Zener diode can be used.
1. Part (a) shows a Zener used to limit the positive peak of a signal voltage to
the selected Zener voltage. During the negative alternation, the Zener acts
as a forward-biased diode and limits the negative voltage to 0.7 V.
2. Part (b), the negative peak is limited by Zener action and the positive
voltage is limited to +0.7 V.
3. Two back-to-back zeners limit both peaks to the Zener voltage 0.7 V, as
shown in part (c). During the positive alternation, D2 is functioning as the
Zener limiter and D1 is functioning as a forward-biased diode. During the
negative alternation, the roles are reversed.

FIGURE 5

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Basic Zener limiting action with a sinusoidal input voltage.

UniKL BMI

BED11103; Introduction To Electronic


2. Diode Application Zener Diodes

Chapter 2. Page 8

SUMMARY
1. The zener diode operates in reverse breakdown.
2. There are two breakdown mechanisms in a zener diode: avalanche breakdown
and zener breakdown.
3. When VZ < 5 V, zener breakdown is major.
4. When VZ > 5 V, avalanche breakdown is major.
5. A zener diode maintains a nearly constant voltage across its terminals over a
specied range of zener currents.
6. Zener diodes are used as voltage regulators and limiters.
7. Zener diodes are available in many voltage ratings ranging from 1.8 V to 200 V.
~End ~

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UniKL BMI