Diode characteristics

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Semiconductor diodes have properties that enable them to perform many different electronic functions. To do their jobs, engineers and technicians must be supplied with data on these different types of diodes. The information presented for this purpose is called DIODE CHARACTERISTICS. These characteristics are supplied by manufacturers either in their manuals or on specification sheets (data sheets). Because of the scores of manufacturers and numerous diode types, it is not practical to put before you a specification sheet and call it typical. Aside from the difference between manufacturers, a single manufacturer may even supply specification sheets that differ both in format and content. Despite these differences, certain performance and design information is normally required. We will discuss this information in the next few paragraphs.

A standard specification sheet usually has a brief description of the diode. Included in this description is the type of diode, the major area of application, and any special features. Of particular interest is the specific application for which the diode is suited. The manufacturer also provides a drawing of the diode which gives dimension, weight, and, if appropriate, any identification marks. In addition to the above data, the following information is also provided: a static operating table (giving spot values of parameters under fixed conditions), sometimes a characteristic curve similar to the one in figure 1-20 (showing how parameters vary over the full operating range), and diode ratings (which are the limiting values of operating conditions outside which could cause diode damage).

Manufacturers specify these various diode operating parameters and characteristics with "letter symbols" in accordance with fixed definitions. The following is a list, by letter symbol, of the major electrical characteristics for the rectifier and signal diodes.


DC BLOCKING VOLTAGE [VR] - the maximum reverse dc voltage that will not cause breakdown.

AVERAGE FORWARD VOLTAGE DROP [VF(AV)] - the average forward voltage drop across the rectifier given at a specified forward current and temperature.

AVERAGE RECTIFIER FORWARD CURRENT [IF(AV)] - the average rectified forward current at a specified temperature, usually at 60 Hz with a resistive load.

AVERAGE REVERSE CURRENT [IR(AV)] - the average reverse current at a specified temperature, usually at 60 Hz.

PEAK SURGE CURRENT [ISURGE] - the peak current specified for a given number of cycles or portion of a cycle.


PEAK REVERSE VOLTAGE [PRV] - the maximum reverse voltage that can be applied before reaching the breakdown point. (PRV also applies to the rectifier diode.)

REVERSE CURRENT [IR] - the small value of direct current that flows when a semiconductor diode has reverse bias.

MAXIMUM FORWARD VOLTAGE DROP AT INDICATED FORWARD CURRENT [VF@IF] - the maximum forward voltage drop across the diode at the indicated forward current.

REVERSE RECOVERY TIME [trr] - the maximum time taken for the forward-bias diode to recover its reverse bias.

The ratings of a diode (as stated earlier) are the limiting values of operating conditions, which if exceeded could cause damage to a diode by either voltage breakdown or overheating. The PN junction diodes are generally rated for: MAXIMUM AVERAGE FORWARD CURRENT, PEAK RECURRENT FORWARD CURRENT, MAXIMUM SURGE CURRENT, and PEAK REVERSE VOLTAGE.

Maximum average forward current is usually given at a special temperature, usually 25C, (77F) and refers to the maximum amount of average current that can be permitted to flow in the forward direction. If this rating is exceeded, structure breakdown can occur.

Peak recurrent forward current is the maximum peak current that can be permitted to flow in the forward direction in the form of recurring pulses.

Maximum surge current is the maximum current permitted to flow in the forward direction in the form of nonrecurring pulses. Current should not equal this value for more than a few milliseconds.

Peak reverse voltage (PRV) is one of the most important ratings. PRV indicates the maximum reverse-bias voltage that may be applied to a diode without causing junction breakdown.

All of the above ratings are subject to change with temperature variations. If, for example, the operating temperature is above that stated for the ratings, the ratings must be decreased.

Q.31 What is used to show how diode parameters vary over a full operating range? answer.gif (214 bytes)
Q.32 What is meant by diode ratings? answer.gif (214 bytes)

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