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Power Diodes

Diodes used in power electronics applications are generally required to have special characteristics, these are: o o o o High breakdown voltage and high current carrying capability; Small switching time delays and small current rise and fall times; Negligible reverse recovery (ie. charge removal at turn OFF is negligible); Low voltage drop when conducting.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to achieve all of these criterion with one single style of diode and thus a number of different types of power diode are available for various applications. It is up to the circuit designer to judge which component is best suited for a particular application This will often result in a conflict between what is required and what is available and it is here the circuit design can be very important. The most common diodes used in rectifier circuits, switching and inverter and converter circuits are: Table 1: Diode ratings


Maximum Breakdown Voltage 30kV

Maximum Current Rating ~500mA

Forward Voltage Drop ~10V

Switching Speed ~100nS


High Voltage Rectifier Diodes General Purpose diodes Fast Recovery

HV circuits



0.7 - 2.5 V 0.7 - 1.5 V <5uS

50 Hz Rectifiers SMPS. Inverters, Resonant ckts. LV HF Rectification



Schottky Diodes



0.2 - 0.9 V


an electric field is formed between the cathode and anode specifically across the depletion] 2. The faster switching diodes have restricted voltage and current ratings and if they are used in high stress application they must be placed in parallel and series to avoid damage. However. When a diode is reverse biased ie. this is as long as switching speeds are not too important.Power Zener Diodes Operates in break down ~300 V ~75 W - - References. Voltage Clamps From Table 1 general trends can be seen. To counteract this the physical distance between the anode and cathode is increased by increasing the size of the bulk region and changing impurity atom doping levels. If high voltage and high current ratings are needed then general purpose diodes can be used. . Why are the diodes different? The physical construction of a diode with a diffusion junction is shown in figure 1. Typical Power Diodes [Indusco. a positive voltage is applied to the cathode with respect to the anode. if the electric field becomes too strong 'avalanche breakdown' occurs and the diode will become a short circuit and often be damaged. The diode is 'reverse biased' and cannot conduct except for small leakage currents.

The resultant effect is to cause more charge carriers to be present within the diode when it is conducting. To achieve very fast switching. Reverse Recovery Figure 3a and b show typical styles of reverse recovery. The area within the negative portion of each curve. P region diffused into N region. Recovery is only dependant on the capacitance of metal-silicon junction. Schottky diodes (Fig. Rectifying action dependant solely on majority carriers therefore no minority carrier recombination. . the latter mechanism appearing as a reverse current (reverse recovery) flowing in the diode as it turns OFF. 2) can be used although their current and voltage ratings are restricted. Interface between metal and N layer creates a barrier potential. Put simply. the charge carriers must either recombine (minority) or be removed. Polished pre-doped N+ epitaxial substrate with thin N layer barrier metal deposit. require more time to remove internal charges at turn OFF and are thus slower switching.Figure 1: Diffusion junction diode Construction process: N type silicon substrate heated to ~1000oC in presence of vapour containing positive charged impurity atoms. . For the diode to switch OFF. diodes with higher voltage ratings have larger bulk regions. Figure 2: Schottky diode construction 3.

is the total reverse recovery charge Qrr and represents the charge removal from the junction and the bulk regions of the diode and is effectively independent of the forward current in the diode. Figure 3: (a) Reverse recovery of a general purpose diode.t1 is dependant on the size of the bulk region thus high di/dt currents can be obtained when using fast diodes. The recovery time t2 . If the di/dt of the snap recovery is too high and stray inductance exists in the circuit then extremely high and possibly damaging voltage spikes can be induced. Note: Qrr can be found from manufacturers specifications thus the maximum reverse recovery current Irr is given by: If ta is very small compared to ta then ta trr and knowing the rate of decrease of current di/dt = Irr/ta Irr/trr leads to: . (b) fast diode. Reverse recovery time trr = t2 . . The effect of reverse recovery on the output voltage of a rectifier feeding a resistive load is shown in figure 4.t0.

The effect is dependant on the doping levels in the region of the depletion layer.Figure 4: Bridge rectifier output voltage showing diode reverse recovery effects 4. Figure 5: Forward and reverse biased diode showing changing size of depletion region Figure 6: Typical diode characteristics . A new hole-electron pair are created which accelerate in opposite directions causing further collisions and ionisation and avalanche breakdown. Avalanche Breakdown Avalanche breakdown occurs when a high reverse voltage is applied to a diode and large electric field is created across the depletion region. Minority carriers in the depletion region associated with small leakage currents are accelerated by the field to high enough energies so that they ionise silicon atoms when they collide with them.

electrons are pulled directly from the valence band on the P side to the conduction band on the N side. Zener Breakdown Zener breakdown occurs with heavily doped junction regions (ie. If a reverse voltage is applied and the depletion region is too narrow for avalanche breakdown (minority carriers cannot reach high enough energies over the distance travelled) the electric field will grow. Often the diodes are included in transistor modules. Figure 8: Typical diode module package . This type of breakdown is not destructive if the reverse current is limited.1 Diodes in General Diodes are not only supplied as single components but can be purchased in modules such as single and three phase rectifiers. Figure 7: Operating range of a zener diode 6. highly doped regions are better conductors).5. However.

2.1 General Purpose Diodes o o o o o Relatively high reverse recovery time (25S) Used in low frequency/speed applications (<1kHz) High current ratings (1 .000V) Generally manufactured using diffusion process 6.2 Fast Diodes o o o o o Have low recovery times (<5S) Used in switched mode power supply and inverter circuits Reasonably high current ratings (1 .5.3. o .Typical Power device packaging 6.000A) Reasonably high voltage ratings (50 .000A) High voltage ratings (50 .000V) For voltage ratings above ~400V diodes made using diffusion process with reverse recovery time decreased by gold or platinum diffusion to increase conductivity For voltage ratings below ~400V diodes constructed using an epitaxial substrate provide faster switching giving reverse recovery times trr 50nS.10.

300A) Low voltage ratings ( <100V) 6.9V) Leakage currents are higher ( >100mA) Low current ratings (1 . Examples: .6.1 Maximum Average Forward Current.3 Schottky Diodes o o o o o o o o Barrier potential created at anode silicon-metal interface eliminates charge storage problems Metal layer deposited on thin epitaxial layer of N types silicon There are no minority carriers so recombination time does not exist and rectification only depends on majority carriers Recovery time only influenced by capacitance of silicon-metal interface Have relatively low forward voltage drops dependant on doping levels and thus barrier potential (0.2 . IFAV {IFAVM} IFAV is the maximum average forward current usually specified at a given case temperature. Important diode parameters 7.4 Power Zener Diodes o o o o o Zener diode more highly doped and designed to operate in breakdown region Breakdown above ~5V is avalanche rather than zener (limit current and no problem) Zener voltage levels over a wide range ( < 300V) Continuous power rating over moderate range (250mW .0.75W) Can be used in transient suppression as a clamp and absorb up to 50kW for limited times 7.

7.3 Maximum Peak Repetitive Forward Current. These large currents can in fact be repeated as long as the maximum junction temperatures is not exceeded. IFSM IFSM is the maximum peak non-repetitive 10mS half sine wave current at a specified temperature. Either delays between pulses will be stated or a graph such . 7. IFRMS {IFRMSM} IFRMS is the maximum RMS value of the forward current which indicates the I 2R heat dissipation capability of the diode. IRM IRM is the maximum repetitive peak current usually specified for a 10mS half sine wave followed by zero amps for 10mS.2 Maximum RMS Forward Current. Examples: 7.4 Maximum Peak Non-Repetitive Forward Current.

Increasing Diode Ratings by Series and Parallel Connection When designing high voltage.1 Series Connected Diodes If diodes are connected in series as shown in figure 12 the combined effect is to increase the reverse blocking capability. it can be seen that the voltage drop across D2 will not cause breakdown however. V RRM VRRM gives the maximum instantaneous and continuous reverse voltage that can be applied across the diode without causing avalanche shown in figure 10 may be given. 8. 7. reverse voltages across each individual diode could vary drastically dependant on the characteristic of each diode. . When forward current flows in the forward direction both diodes conduct the same current and the forward voltage drops are very similar. high power rectifiers or other types of high voltage converters where diodes are necessary. However.5 Maximum Repetitive Peak Reverse Voltage. diodes can be used in series or parallel blocks to increase ratings. 7. Because the exact characteristics of each individual diode cannot be guaranteed to be the same it is prudent to include additional simple circuitry to ensure reverse voltage and forward current sharing occurs. avalanche breakdown will occur in diode D1. VRSM VRSM is the maximum instantaneous peak reverse voltage that can be applied across the diode usually over a 10mS period without causing avalanche breakdown. Without protection circuits individual diodes can be destroyed due to over voltage or over current conditions.6 Maximum Peak Non-Repetitive Reverse Voltage. Figure 10: Non-repetitive surge current ratings showing derating as number of pulses are increased. In figure 11. 8.

letting IR1 = IR2 = 10 IR gives R1 = R2 = 2000/50 mA = 40 kΩ. Then. A lot of power! For further transient voltage equalization an additional series connected RC network can be placed across each diode in addition to R1 and R2. if the exact characteristics of each diode are known it would be possible to design the resistors so that exact voltage division is achieved. Theoretically. in the event that the exact characteristics are not know sharing resistors (with associated losses) can to be used. however. Again a simple method of calculating resistance values can be used if all resistors are set equal.2 Parallel Connected Diodes Connecting diodes in parallel will increase the current carrying capability. Example: If Vs = 4000V and the reverse leakage current at VRRM for each diode is specified as IR = IRRM = 5mA .Figure 11: The effect of using diodes with different characteristics on the reverse blocking capability The simplest protection circuit is to connected high value resistors in parallel with each diode. . The power loss is: (10 IR)2 R1 = (50m)2 40kΩ = 100W. this is not possible and a simple design can be used. Figure 12 shows exaggerated characteristics to highlight the variation in current through each diode. 8. Practically however. If it is possible to match the diodes so that approximately equal current sharing is achieved this should be done.

Mohan. Ledwich] . [Original notes by G. Undeland and Robbins.Figure 12: Mismatched parallel connected diodes and a voltage sharing circuit Example: The maximum average current in one leg of a bridge rectifier is 3000A. Wiley. Applications and Design". VR1 = VR2 = VR3 = 1V then R1 = R2 = R3 = 1/1000 = 1 mΩ. For further reading: [1] "Power Electronics: Converters. 1989.