A lot of SOT-23 FET gates have built-in back-to-back Zener diodes to source, presumably to protect against over-voltage. However, the datasheets typically say nothing about the characteristics of these diodes. The gate leakage current will be much higher in FET's that have this structure (compared to those that don't), but otherwise the datasheets are silent about it.

One example: Diodes, Inc. p/n DMP10H4D2S-7.


I am designing a circuit where I am installing external back-to-back Zener diodes to protect the FET gate under certain conditions. But I am curious if I really need them or not. It seems to me that if I limit the current sufficiently, the built-in Zeners should protect the gate.

If anybody has any thoughts on this topic, I would be very eager to hear them. I mean, the obvious thing to do is just add the external protection to be safe. But I still want to know if anyone has any insight on the built-in protection.

  • \$\begingroup\$ what specifics are you looking for? Usually, you have a resistor and then a diode to the source. \$\endgroup\$
    – b degnan
    Aug 3, 2016 at 13:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @bdegnan, performance information for the Zener diode. Such as you might find in a datasheet for a discrete Zener diode. What is the Zener voltage at some specific current, like 1uA or 10uA? What is the max current where V is guaranteed to be below Vgs max? \$\endgroup\$
    – user57037
    Aug 3, 2016 at 15:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, I have data for an ALD1011 (I need to check that number, but it was an nFET) that I took. I didn't test for IV relationships, but I did test for the breakdown. ALD1011 was at 90V for the breakdown. The input current into the gate was 2pA for both test cases (0~5v) and the input resistance seemed to be about 1k at breakdown. I have never seen this information published anywhere. I only looked at it because I was playing around with making a discrete multiplier and I wanted to know the leakage. \$\endgroup\$
    – b degnan
    Aug 3, 2016 at 16:38

1 Answer 1


The zener protection on Mosfet gate is against ESD (electrostatic discharge) damage. In this case the Mosfet is tiny and you could damage it just touching the pin, without the Zener.

Please note that specific datasheet says nothing about the ESD protection level, so I assume is not very strong. Unlikely is 2kV HBM, may be just 500V. Usually if the Zener is present the ESD resistance capability is reported on the datasheet; this specific datasheet is unusual on that.

Most mosfets, specially the larger, have no Zener ESD protection. The absence is due to cost, a version with zener needs 1-2 masks more so the die is a bit more expensive (~15%).

ESD pulse are low energy short pulse; but the gate oxide is thin: 500 to 1000 Å and damages are catastrophic. Without the Zener, the capability to sustain the ESD stress depends by thickness and area of the gate oxide. Logic level (Vgs-th ~ 1.5) are more sensible than standard gate (Vgs-th ~ 3) On big Mosfets the gate capacitance is able to handle the ESD pulse without damage.

The Zener voltage is few volts more than the max rated Vgs. It protects the gate oxide but it will be destroyed itself by DC or long pulse overvoltage. The ESD Zener also introduce a current path between gate and source so the Igss leakage is orders of magnitude larger then the gate capacitance itself.

Some reading: http://www.jedec.org/sites/default/files/IndustryCouncil_HBM_January2014_JEDECversionMay2014.pdf

and one of the test methodology http://www.aecouncil.com/Documents/AEC_Q101-001A.pdf. Same than JESD22-A114

  • \$\begingroup\$ You asked about the scope of the Zener, not about Mosfet that don't have. The absence is due to cost, a version with zener need 1-2 masks more so the die is a bit more expensive. Big Mosfet don't have it a as the gate capacitance perform the same job. \$\endgroup\$
    – matzeri
    Aug 3, 2016 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is the breakdown voltage of the Zener in relation to Vgs max? \$\endgroup\$
    – user57037
    Aug 3, 2016 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ Usually few volt more than Vgs max. \$\endgroup\$
    – matzeri
    Aug 3, 2016 at 16:11
  • \$\begingroup\$ I guess that is why they don't publish it. It is not reliable for intentional use-case protection. \$\endgroup\$
    – user57037
    Aug 3, 2016 at 17:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you add a bit to your answer, I might accept it. Add the information from your last comment, and how you know (if you are a designer or worked in the industry or whatever). \$\endgroup\$
    – user57037
    Aug 3, 2016 at 17:19

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