A diode is a fundamental electronic component that allows the flow of electricity in one direction. There are many types of diodes. One among them is Zener diode. It allows current to flow not only from its anode to its cathode but also in the reverse direction on reaching Zener voltage. The diodes most commonly used are Zener diodes, semiconductor diodes, etc.
What is Zener Diode?
- It is a unique type of diode which allows the current to flow in one direction like a regular diode but it also permits it to flow in the opposite direction. It allows the flow in the opposite direction when the voltage is above a certain value known as Zener Voltage or Avalanche Point or Breakdown Voltage.
- It consists of a highly doped, reverse biased (refer to an article on p-n junction diode) p-n junction diode while operating in the breakdown region.
Zener Diode Symbol
The symbol for Zener diode is represented as below,
Zener Diode Circuit
We can define zener diode as a single diode connected in a reverse bias. It can be connected in reverse bias positive in a circuit shown below,
Zener Diode Characteristics
The diagram given below shows the V-I characteristics of the Zener diode. When the Zener diode is connected in forward bias diode acts as a normal diode. But Zener breakdown voltage occurs when the reverse bias voltage is greater than a predetermined voltage.
- A conventional reverse biased diode, when subjected to its breakdown voltage allows a significant amount of current. But when this reverse breakdown voltage is exceeded, the diode experiences an avalanche breakdown.
- Avalanche breakdown is a form of electric current conduction that allows very large current to pass through good insulators. This may permanently damage a conventional diode.
- A Zener diode exhibits the same properties except it is designed to have a reduced breakdown voltage. In contrast to the conventional diode, it exhibits a controlled breakdown.
- When we increase the voltage through Zener in reverse bias mode, first current increases uniformly with it but after it reaches the breakdown state, the current increases massively for a very small or negligible change in voltage. The change is sharper in Zener than the normal diode.
Causes of Breakdown
- The breakdown is caused by two effects, the Avalanche effect and the Zener effect. The Zener effect is dominant in voltages up to 5.6 volts and the avalanche effect takes over above that.
- They are both similar effects, the difference being that Zener effect is a quantum phenomenon and the avalanche effect is the movement of electrons in the valence band like in any electric current. Avalanche effect also allows a larger current through the diode than the Zener effect.
- The graph shown above will clearly illustrate the difference between the avalanche effect and the Zener effect.
Applications of Zener Diode
Zener diodes are usually used as voltage regulators in circuits since as you can see from the graph there is very little variation in voltage when compared to the increase in current. Conversely, very small changes in voltage can cause very large changes in current. It can also be used in surge protectors that we attach to our fridges and TVs to protect them from voltage fluctuations.
What is Diode?
- The semiconductor diode is a combination of two crystalline semiconductor materials. The two materials are known as p-type and n-type. This classification is based on the concentration of charge carriers in the material. The charge carriers in semiconductors are electrons and holes.
- Through a process called doping, we are able to introduce certain desired properties in the form of impurities. Through doping, we can control the concentration of holes and electrons in a material.
- The p-type semiconductor has a larger hole concentration, here p-type refers to the positive charge of the hole. This is done by introducing acceptor atoms which accept electrons to give rise to holes. The most commonly used impurity to dope silicon to p-type configuration is boron.
- In contrast, n-type semiconductors have a larger electron concentration. This is done by introducing donor atoms as impurities. Here the n-type refers to the negative charge of the electrons.
Practice Questions On Zener Diode
Q1: Define Zener Diode.
Ans: It is a type of diode which allows the current to flow in one direction like a regular diode but it also permits it to flow in the opposite direction.
Q2: When does the Zener Diode allow reverse flow of current?
Ans: It allows the current flow in the opposite direction when the voltage is above a certain value known as Zener Voltage or Avalanche Point or Breakdown Voltage
Q3: State true or False. Zener Diode exhibit controlled breakdown.
Ans: True. Zener Diode does exhibit controlled breakdown.
Q4: How does breakdown occur?
Ans: The breakdown is caused by two effects, the Avalanche effect, and the Zener effect.
Q5: What is the difference between the Zener effect and the avalanche effect?
Ans: The Zener effect is a quantum phenomenon whereas, the avalanche effect is the movement of electrons in the valence band like in the case of any electric current.
Hope you have got a brief knowledge of Zener Diode, along with the Definition, Symbol, Circuit, and well-elaborated explanation. For a better understanding of DC motor do read the related articles and answer the practice questions.
Physics Related Topics
|Zener Diode as a Voltage Regulator||Light Emitting Diode|
|Schottky Diode||How Diodes Work as a Rectifier?|
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