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Zener Diode Graph

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A conventional solid-state diode allows significant current if it is reverse-biased above its reverse breakdown voltage. When the reverse bias breakdown voltage is exceeded, a conventional diode is subject to high current due to avalanche breakdown. Unless this current is limited by circuitry, the diode may be permanently damaged due to overheating. A Zener diode exhibits almost the same properties, except the device is specially designed so as to have a reduced breakdown voltage, the so-called Zener voltage. By contrast with the conventional device, a reverse-biased Zener diode exhibits a controlled breakdown and allows the current to keep the voltage across the Zener diode close to the Zener breakdown voltage. For example, a diode with a Zener breakdown voltage of 3. 2 V exhibits a voltage drop of very nearly 3. 2 V across a wide range of reverse currents. The Zener diode is therefore ideal for applications such as the generation of a reference voltage (e. g. for an amplifier stage), or as a voltage stabilizer for low-current applications.

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