**Zener Diode as a Voltage Regulator**

**Zener Diode **

A Zener diode is a P-N junction diode that is specially designed for operation in the breakdown region in reverse bias conditions.

Zener Diode sometimes also called the breakdown diode as it is used to take advantage of its sharply defined breakdown voltage when operated in the reverse bias mode.

When a Zener diode works in the forward biased condition then it works as a normal diode and in the reverse biased condition when the applied source voltage is greater than the threshold voltage then the Zener diode suddenly starts operating in the breakdown region.

Talking about the application of the Zener diode, there are numerous applications of the Zener diode in transistor circuits, and the Zener diode as a voltage regulator is one of its applications.

**How Zener Diode works as a Voltage Regulator**

The principle behind the working of the Zener diode as a voltage regulator is the fact that the Zener diode maintains a constant voltage even though the current through it changes.

For proper working of the Zener diode as a voltage regulator, the voltage of an unregulated power supply must be greater than the Zener voltage of the diode selected.

But when the input voltage is less than the Zener voltage then the diode does not conduct.

Voltage regulation is defined as the measure of a circuit’s ability to maintain a constant output voltage when there is variation in the input voltage or in the load current.

The circuit shown in the figure shows how a Zener diode can be used as a voltage regulator to provide a constant voltage from a source having varying voltage sources.

In the given circuit diagram a resistance R_{s} is connect which is necessary to limit the reverse current through the diode to a value.

### Zener Voltage and Zener Current

The voltage source V_{S }and the resistor R_{s }are selected in such a way that the diode operates in the breakdown region.

The diode voltage in this region, which is also the voltage across the load R_{L} is called Zener voltage V_{Z}, and the current which is flowing in the diode is called the Zener Current I_{Z}.

Output voltage fluctuation is absorbed by the series resistor RS so that voltage across the load can be maintained constant. And the Zener diode is reversely connected across the input voltage whose variations are to be regulated.

As long as the voltage across the load resistor RL is less than the breakdown voltage V_{Z}, then the Zener diode will not conduct and the resistor R_{s} and R_{L} will constitute a potential divider across V_{S}.

When the supply voltage V_{S} has increased then the voltage drop across the load resistor becomes greater than the Zener breakdown voltage and it then operates in its breakdown region.

The series resistor R_{s} limits the Zener current I_{Z} from exceeding its rated maximum value I_{Z max.}

Current through resistor R_{s} is given by

I_{S} = V_{S} –V_{Z} /R_{s}

And the current through the source splits at the junction of the Zener diode and the load resistor.

i.e , I_{S}_{=} I_{Z}+I_{L}

When the Zener diode operates in the breakdown region then, the voltage across the Zener diode remains constant even though the current flowing through it may vary.

When the supply voltage V_{S} increases then the current through the Zener diode as well as load resistance increases.

At the same time resistance of the Zener diode decreases and the current through the diode increases more than proportionately.

Due to which there will be a greater voltage drop across the series resistor Rs and the voltage across the Zener diode or load resistance will reach closer to the original value. The reverse case is also true.

In this way, a Zener diode can maintain the output voltage within a fraction of a volt when there is a variation in the supply or input voltage Vs over a wide range of voltages.

As long as the supply voltage is more than the Zener voltage the Zener diode will maintain a constant voltage across the load.

Let us consider another case of output voltage variation. when the load resistance RL decreases for a constant source of input voltage V_{S}, load current I_{L} increases.

This extra increased current is not supplied from the source of supply but the demand for additional load current met by the decrease in Zener current I_{Z}.

Due to this the voltage drop across the series resistor RS constant and so the output voltage Vout.

The worst-case occurs for minimum supply voltage and maximum load current because the Zener current reduces to a minimum.

In this case,

I_{Smin} =V_{Smin} -V_{z} /R_{S max}

Or, R_{S max} = V_{Smin} -V_{z} /I_{Smin}

As we know that I_{S} = I_{Z}+I_{L}

Then, I_{Z}=I_{S} – I_{L}

In the worst case, the above equation is written as

I_{Z min} = I_{S min} – I_{L max}

When the value of I_{L max}= I_{S min} then the critical point occurs at which the value of Zener current reduces to zero and regulation is lost.

When we substitute I_{L max} in place of I_{S min}, the value of R_{S max }we get is known as the critical resistance.

R_{S max} =V_{S min} – V_{Z} /I_{L max}

Where R_{S max} is the critical resistance, which is the maximum allowable series resistance, VS min is the minimum source voltage, V_{Z} is the Zener voltage, and I_{L max }is the maximum load current.

Zener diode voltage regulator has numerous advantages over other voltage regulators as it is smaller, lighter, more rugged, and has a longer life. It is also simpler and inherently cheaper.