My electronics textbook says the following regarding a voltage regulator with a Zener diode:

For proper operation of this circuit, the diode must remain in the breakdown re- gion and the power dissipation in the diode must not exceed its rated value. In other words:

  1. The current in the diode is a minimum, IZ(min), when the load current is a maximum, IL(max), and the source voltage is a minimum, VPS(min).
  2. The current in the diode is a maximum, IZ(max), when the load current is a minimum, IL(min), and the source voltage is a maximum, VPS(max)

(VPS is the source voltage).

I dont get why those conditions follow from wanting to be in the breakdown region and not exceeding the power rated value.

Namely, for example, I want an explanation for why first and second conditions are necessary consequences of proper functionality.



1 Answer 1


Think of it this way:

As the load resistance decreases, more current flows through the load, and therefore less current flows through the Zener. When the source voltage is lower, even less current flows through the Zener (as less current flows through the entire circuit). If the load current is very large, the current through the Zener drops below \$I_{ZK}\$, the knee current of the Zener and it stops behaving like a Zener (so we are no longer in the "proper operation" regime). This gives rise to the first point. Additionally, if the source voltage drops below \$V_{Z0}\$, then the Zener will definitely not be acting like a Zener anymore.

If the load resistance increases, the load current decreases and current through the Zener increases. When the load current is zero (no load) and the source voltage is at a maximum, that is when the most current flows through the Zener. In order to avoid breaking the Zener, the power dissipated by the Zener must be below its rated value, and this gives rise to the second point.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hmm but have you addressed the fact that the source voltage is also at a max or min in each of these conditions? I'll read your answer tomorrow morning. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – DLV
    Mar 4, 2016 at 6:33

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