Brief zener diode component voltage reference and shunt regulator basics

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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.


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.

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It’s better to use the zener diode to set the voltage of a BJT transistor or op amp voltage follower, which are upcoming topics.

The best option for a reliable voltage is to use a 3 terminal voltage regular IC if possible. But, it is still a good idea to learn how these other circuits work so that you understand electronics better.


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My 74LS00 series IC kit (assuming they haven’t changed it at all)

74HC00 kit that is similar to mine, which isn’t available anymore. List of included IC’s is shown in the images.

4000 series IC kit I have (assuming they don’t changed part numbers)

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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.