Zener diode component – voltage reference – regulator

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 and full wave bridge rectifier basics diagram by Electronzap Electronzapdotcom
Zener diode and full wave bridge rectifier basics diagram by Electronzap Electronzapdotcom

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.

Estimating zener diode voltage using just a power supply that shows current

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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