Zener diodes are used to maintain a fixed voltage. They are designed to 'breakdown' in a reliable and non-destructive way so that they can be used in reverse to maintain a fixed voltage across their terminals. The diagram shows how they are connected, with a resistor in series to limit the current.
Zener diodes can be distinguished from ordinary diodes by their code and breakdown voltage which are printed on them. Zener diode codes begin BZX... or BZY... Their breakdown voltage is printed with V in place of a decimal point, so 4V7 means 4.7V for example.
Zener diodes are rated by their breakdown voltage and maximum power:
a = anode, k = cathode
- The minimum voltage available is 2.7V.
- Power ratings of 400mW and 1.3W are common.