Zener diodes are specially made to conduct current while reverse biased (RB) in order to output it’s zener voltage to other circuitry.
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Zener diode basic properties
- Typically used while reverse biased.
- Forward biased (Anode more positive than cathode): Conducts like other forward biased (FB) diodes. Approx. 0.7V forward voltage.
- Reverse biased: Zener diode starts conducting current once it’s particular zener voltage is reached. There’s a large number of zener values to choose from.
- RB zener diode usually has it’s anode to 0V ground (negative voltage supply terminal), while the cathode connects to a resistor headed to the positive side of the power supply and to the input of whatever going to have the zener voltage applied to it.
Zener diode uses
- Reference voltage: The zener diode mostly just sets a reference voltage to an amplifier (transistor, op amp, etc.). The amplifier then powers a load based on that voltage. This is preferred over zener regulation.
- Regulator voltage: The zener diode sets the voltage to a load directly. This can cause a number of problems because the zener diode and the load have to split up the current that is being limited by the resistor from Vcc to the zener cathode
- Used as a voltage drop/shifter: The RB zener diode will block it’s zener voltage from reaching any components on the more negative side of the circuit. That’s how I used the zener at 017 PNP BJT current source set with zener diode
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