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A diode is a device that conducts the current in just one direction: the direction of the arrow in the diode symbol, which looks like this: The most important parameters of a diode are: maximum forward current, forward voltage, maximum power dissipation and reverse voltage. The forward current is the current flow in the direction of the arrow of the diode symbol. This current causes a voltage across the diode: the forward voltage drop. Each diode has a certain minimum voltage drop, called the knee voltage. The diode will not conduct when the voltage across it is less than the knee voltage. The knee voltage of a generic silicon diode is about 0.6V. The power dissipation of a diode is the forward current multiplied by the forward voltage drop. The reverse voltage is the voltage across a diode when it is reverse biased. If you want to know how a diode works internally, you'll have to take a peek inside.
5.1 An AC Voltage Rectifier
Since diodes conduct current in only one direction, they can be used as an AC Voltage rectifier. Take a look at the picture below.
A triangular AC voltage is connected to the input terminals of the rectifier. The output voltage will be measured across resistor R1. When the upper input terminal is positive, there will be a current flow in the diode and the resistor. This current causes a voltage across R1. Assume the peak voltage is (plus and minus) 9V, and the forward voltage of the diode is 0.7V. The peak current will then be (9V - 0.7V) / 1k = 8.3mA. The maximum power dissipation of the diode will be 9V · 8.3mA = 74.7mW. When the voltage at the upper input terminal becomes negative, the diode is reverse biased blocking the current flow. Since the diode has a very large resistance, all the voltage will be across the diode. This should not exceed the maximum reverse voltage. So if you want to perform this experiment, you'll need a diode with the following requirements: the maximum forward current must be 8.3mA or higher; the maximum power dissipation must be 74.7mW or higher; and the maximum reverse voltage must be 9V or higher. Any small signal diode will meet these requirements. The resistor can be a regular 0.25W resistor since the maximum power dissipation is (8.3mA)2 · 1k = 69mW. The circuit above is called a half wave rectifier, since the ouput contains only the positive half of the input. The circuit below shows a full wave rectifier.
The number after the 'B' indicates the maximum (reverse) voltage. or D2 and D4. depending on the color. This means that the output voltage will always be about 1. resistor R1. in this case 80V.. you can test and experiment with LEDs. and have a much longer life time: about 100000 hours. Answer: The voltage across R1 will be 9V . e. The circuit D1. 470ohms is a good choice. Notice that the current always flows in two diodes: either D1 and D3. and has a forward voltage drop of 1. and diode D3 to the lower terminal.2V = 7V. From the E12 series. LEDs consume less power than light bulbs.D4 is called a bridge rectifier. you'll probably see something imprinted like 'B80C5000/3300'. A regular LED needs a current flow of 10. The current flow in R1 will also be 15mA. . When the input signal is negative. the currents flows from the upper terminal.4 volts (two 'forward voltage drops') less than the input voltage. 5.. via diode D1. With the circuit below. via diode D2. When you look at a bridge rectifier.g. 'B40C800'.3A. The number after the 'C' indicates the maximum peak/continuous (forward) current in mA.5 to 2 volts. When the input signal is positive. In this case the maximum peak current is 5A and the maximum continuous current is 3. and diode D4 to the upper terminal.2 LEDs The abbreviation LED stands for Light Emitting Diode.. resistor R1.This circuit works as follows. the currents flows from the lower terminal. and we want a current flow of 15mA. Smaller bridge rectifiers only indicate the maximum voltage and current.20mA. So R1 should have a value of 7V / 15mA = 467ohms. Question: What will be a good value for R1? Assume that the voltage across LED D1 is 2 volts..
7V = 4.3V/85mA = 51ohms. So a good value of R1 ranges from 51 to 860ohms. The 'value' of a zener diode is given in volts. 820ohms is a good choice.4. the *maximum* value of R1 is 43ohms.4.7V. we need to calculate the value of R1. this is the reverse voltage. e. So the voltage across the zener diode in the picture above will always be 4. In this design zener D1 has a 50ohms load (R2). we'll calculate a proper value for R1.3V.7V = 85mA.4 or 0. the power dissipation is 4. Note however that the calculations above only count for a zener without a load. 0. It's the reverse voltage that distinguishes a zener diode from a regular diode. Since the voltage across the zener is 4.4W zener in the design above. (Yep. Using this characteristic. Take a look at the picture below. Unfortunately.7V = 4. a good value of R1 is 4. A zener diode stabilizes the voltage at the reverse voltage. the current flow in R2 will always be 4.3V.47W.7 volts. but without the . In this picture you see a reverse connected zener diode. Take a look at the picture below.7V/50 = 94mA.4W/4. So the current flow in R1 ranges from 99 to 179mA. there is a current flow!) In most cases 5mA is fine. So the minimum value for R1 is 4. Again. 39ohms may be a good choice.g. A zener diode manufacturer publishes the maximum power dissipation of a zener diode. Again.7V.3V/5mA = 860ohms. In that case. we can calculate the minimum value of R1: Assume we use a 0. The voltage across R1 will be 9V . The current flow in D1 should be between 5 and 85mA.5W is a very common value for a small zener diode. so the resistance should be between 24 and 43ohms. So you'd better take a 1W resistor! But what should we do if the 50ohms load can be detached.5. The voltage across R1 is always 4. the maximum current flow is 0. because it's an external load? With the load connected. Since the voltage across R1 will be 9V .3V.32 / 39 = 0. it's difficult to say what's the ideal current flow in a zener diode. But a zener diode doesn't blow when the voltage tends to get higher. even when the battery voltage increases. altough the diode is reverse biased.3 Zener Diodes A zener diode in conducting state acts like a normal diode. Since the voltage across the load R2 is always 4.
Also make sure that the equipment-under-test has been turned off! . Connect the black wire to the cathode and red wire to the anode. without the load connected.3W. the display will indicate an overflow.g.load the *minimum* value is 51ohms! The answer is simple: use a higher wattage zener diode.. 1.3V/276mA = 16ohms.6 = Test lead jacks If you want to test a diode. Connect the other ends of the test leads across the diode. If you swap the test leads. Note that in-circuit testing may lead to wrong results. the maximum current flow in D1 is 1. since other components may be parallel-connected to the diode. This means. The display should now read about 0. Next. Mulimeters usually come with two test leads: a black one and a red one. Connect the black test lead to the COM jack and the red lead to the V/Ω jack. connect the test leads. In that case. Again.3W/4. Now we have an overlapping range of values for R1 from which you may choose one. e. a minimum value of R1 of 4.4.7V = 276mA.6V (600mV). Testing diodes using a multimeter Most digital multimeters look like this: 1 = Display 2 = Function switch 3 = Transistor socket (optional) 4. set the function switch to "diode test".. a 39ohms / 1W resistor is a good choice. 5.
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