Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What is happening inside the zener diode ?

  1. Nov 10, 2012 #1
    Refer to this graph

    The zener diode
    First the reverse biased set up then the depletion layer become bigger and bigger because the anode of the battery will attract the electron in n-type , leaving a lot of holes there. For the cathode, it will supply a lot of electrons to the p-type, increasing the depletion layer.
    When the reverse voltage is continually supplied to the zener diode, a lot of energy will be given to the electrons in covalent bonds, then the electrons from covalent bond will break and jump from valence band to conduction band. This is what we called zener breakdown.( the electrons from the covalent bond is the minority charge carriers which resulting in more reverse current?)
    And the electrons are continually being supplied with energy ,(the minority charge carriers or electrons become stronger and stronger?) then they will continually move in the circuit and then knock the atoms around them , again a lot of electrons will be produced either from the covalent bond or the valence electron of the atoms. This is what we called avalanche breakdown. (then how about the depletion layer there? Still there or is being destroyed?)
    Then for one characteristic of zener diode ,the voltage is independent to the current. And from the graph we can see that when it is zener breakdown, there will be infinite current produced, because the graph show the current will go to infinity.(but how can the current go infinity since we have so limited atoms that make up the diode?) The zener diode as a voltage regulator can continue to supply constant voltage(is that mean the zener diode is able to keep voltage across it stable always?) and vary its own current to accommodate the circuit.(how the zener diode is able to vary the current just to suit the circuit? By controlling the minority charge carriers?)

    This is so far what I know all about the zener diode , please correct me and answer me. Thank you very much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 10, 2012 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

  4. Nov 13, 2012 #3
    I was told that Zener breakdown was due to tunneling.... I'm no sure if that's correct though.
  5. Nov 14, 2012 #4
    Tunneling dominates under some 4V and corresponds to the field ionizing the atoms directly - in other words, taking valence electrons into the conduction band. These diodes are bad in that the I-V curve is too round for proper regulation, but they produce very little noise even at low frequency, less than a bandgap reference, so with much circuitry around they can be a good voltage reference for metrology.

    At higher breakdown voltage, avalanche dominates, where impacts of fast electrons ionize atoms. These diodes have the square I-V curve that regulates efficiently. The current is limited by the rest of the circuit. Noise is stronger in these diodes but not so strong neither, is essentially white, and it depends on temperature (and light).
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook