Brief zener diode component voltage reference and shunt regulator basics

Table of Contents

Zener diodes are a specially made diode that can safely conduct current while reverse biased (RB). Each zener diode has a particular voltage that they are rated to start conducting at while RB. The power supply needs to be at a higher voltage than the zener voltage. A series resistor or something else needs to limit current for the zener diode.

Diagram:

The zener diode can be thought of as kind of a voltage relief valve. Current will pass through it instead of the load as needed to hold the voltage no higher than the zener voltage.

Simple zener diode voltage shunt regulator schematic diagram by electronzap electronzapdotcom
Simple zener diode voltage shunt regulator schematic diagram by electronzap electronzapdotcom

The current through the resistor from the supply must be the combined current needed for the zener diode and the load at that voltage.

It’s better to use the zener diode to set the voltage of a BJT transistor or op amp voltage follower than to try to use the zener diode alone. Future circuits in this series will use those amplifiers with the zener diode.

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  • Information on this site is not guaranteed to be accurate. Always consult the manufacturer info/datasheet of parts you use. Research the proper safety precautions for everything you do.