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Chapter 3-2


Diodes for Voltage Regulation

Modern electronics have stringent requirements for their DC power. The use of diodes for voltage regulation is one of their biggest applications. We saw that the diode when connected with a resistor can be treated as a voltage divider,
from the small-signal model perspective, the diode is just a resistor Its low resistance reduced the ac signal by a large amount But what might have been missed is that there was still the bias point voltage dropping across it: You couldnt get that with a small resistor (the DC output would also be very small).

This property might be useful for voltage regulation:
We want a constant voltage output even if we have:
Variances in the voltage (AC ripple) Variances in the load resistance

There is hope that the diode could do the former: It will not reduce the DC voltage as much as the AC signal due to the turn-on voltage (But who wants a 0.7V regulator? Well get around that later)

What about variances in the load resistance. Can the diode handle that without large changes in the voltage drop across it?
Yes it will. Consider that the diode is a device whos current exponentially depends on the voltage. Turned around this means that the voltage is logarithmically dependent on the current. Thats hopeful, it means the current would have to change by many decades to produce a significant change in the voltage drop.

A Diode Voltage Regulator

So what about the problem that we could only get a 0.7V regulator? Simple, we stack up as many diodes as we need to create a voltage drop that is nxVD. We have some fine control over the diode voltage drop by choosing R correctly. But if we need a 10V drop, this means wed need about 14 diodes to get this! That doesnt sound like an effective design. There is a way around this, we can use a diode known as a Zener diode

Zener Diodes
In reverse breakdown, the voltage drop across the diode also varies very little over large changes in the current through the diode In normal diodes the exact breakdown voltage will vary from model to model with little consistency. But, the zener is a kind of diode that is designed specifically to have a known value for the breakdown voltage. A zener diode could replace all the stacked diodes in the previous example of a voltage regulator. The only distinction is that the polarity would be oriented opposite because the voltage regulation occurs in the reverse bias. In breakdown the zener has a linear I-V, meaning it can be modeled as a voltage offset and a resistor:

VZ = VZO + rz I Z

We briefly covered rectifiers before when we introduced diodes.
Rectification is the most common use of a diode (every DC power supply, except a battery uses this effect) Rectifier circuits can be as simple as just a diode.

Now we will cover the rectifier circuit in greater detail:

We will cover the components needed to go from 120V 60Hz AC to stable, low ripple, DC Although the diodes play the central role in rectification (otherwise wed never get from AC to DC), the other components play important roles in conditioning the output of the diodes to be compatible with the often stringent requirements of the loads (think computers and other sensitive electronics)

Rectifier Components
There are four components to a DC power supply:
Transformer: Changes the amplitude of the 120V line voltage to a value that is close to the desired supply voltage. Diode Rectifier: Converts the AC to a single polarity (but not true DC) voltage source Filter: Smoothes out the voltage from the rectifier to form true DC (steady voltage over time) with some ripple (variances in the DC output due to residual effects of the AC source) Voltage regulator: Maintains a constant voltage output at a desired value (less than the voltage output of the filter). This can also remove more of the ripple.

Why does ripple matter? Imagine you want to supply power to a logic circuit:
Typical logic levels are 0V and +5V. The high level tends to be very close to the supply voltage (we will understand this better as we look at transistors, but consider the diode logic circuits we looked at: their output is directly dependent on the supply voltages. If there is an ac component to the supply voltage this will show up in the output By itself this might not be a problem, but that signal could get amplified by nonlinear components of the logic circuit. If the ripple were significant enough (imagine unfiltered rectified AC), the operation of the circuit would be impaired. How useful would a logic circuit be if its output went low every 1/120th of a second?

Ripple also leads to varying power supplied to the circuit. Some circuits cannot operate if the supply current or voltage dips below a critical level.