Zener Diodes - What Do These Do?
These can be made to conduct in reverse bias (backward), and are correctly termed reverse breakdown diodes. This effect, called Zener breakdown, occurs at a precisely defined voltage, allowing the diode to be used as a precision voltage reference. The term Zener diode is colloquially applied to several types of breakdown diodes, but strictly speaking Zener diodes have a breakdown voltage of below 5 volts, whilst avalanche diodes are used for breakdown voltages above that value. In practical voltage reference circuits, Zener and switching diodes are connected in series and opposite directions to balance the temperature coefficient response of the diodes to near-zero. Some devices labeled as high-voltage Zener diodes are actually avalanche diodes (see above). Two (equivalent) Zeners in series and in reverse order, in the same package, constitute a transient absorber (or Transorb, a registered trademark).