Difference between a Zener diode and Schottky diode

Last updated on September 2nd, 2022 at 06:02 pm

A diode is a two-terminal electronic component that conducts electricity in one direction and blocks the flow of electricity in the opposite direction. There are many different types of diodes, but the most common are Zener diodes and Schottky diodes. We will discuss these two diode types and the differences between them in this article.

Difference between Zener and Schottky Diode? (Short answer)

Zener diodes are used to regulate voltage, while Schottky diodes are used to reduce power loss and increase switching speed. Schottky diodes are also smaller and faster than Zener diodes, making them ideal for use in high-speed circuits.

Before jumping to Zener or Schottky diode, let’s look at some of the basic characteristics of a diode.

Basic Characteristics of a Diode

Diode’s PropertyDefinition
VfIt indicates the forward voltage drop when current flows from the P to N terminal of the diode.
IfIt is the maximum fwd current a diode can handle
VRIt is the reverse break down voltage when current flows from N to P terminal.
IRThe amount of current that flows when a diode is reverse biased.
tRRWhen a diode is switched off suddenly, the fwd current flowing through the diode takes a small amount of time to die down and this time is called Reverse Recovery Time.
Characteristics of a diode
Characteristics of a diode

What’s a Schottky Diode?

Unlike a simple rectifier diode(like 1N4007), the junction of the Schottky diode is between an n-type semiconductor and a metal plate.

Also, electrons are the majority charge carriers on both sides of the junction, thus it is a unipolar device.

Schottky diode, also known as barrier diode is mainly used in low voltage circuits because the forward voltage drop of the Schottky diode(Vf) is less than a rectifier diode. The forward voltage drop of a Schottky diode is typically in the range of .25 to 0.5 V whereas the Vf of a rectifier diode is around 0.7 volts.   

Let’s say you are working with a low voltage(say 3v) circuit and a diode is being used in that circuit. In this case, it is better to use a Schottky diode because there would be less voltage drop across it. And there will be enough voltage left for further use.

Schottky diode is a Unipolar device
Schottky diode is a Unipolar device

A Schottky diode is mostly used in high-frequency applications like SMPS. And that’s because of its low-temperature rise and high switching speed pertaining to its small recovery time.

A Schottky diode in an SMPS
A Schottky diode in an SMPS

What is the Recovery Time of a diode?

When a diode is switched off suddenly, the fwd current flowing through the diode takes a small amount of time to die down and this time is called Reverse Recovery Time. Compared to a normal diode, the reverse recovery time of Schottky diodes is much smaller, making it suitable to be used in fast switching circuits.

What are the disadvantages of a Schottky diode?

The disadvantage of a Schottky diode is its low breakdown voltage ( 20v to 40v ) making it unsuitable for high voltage applications like a rectifier circuit.

A disadvantage of Schottky Diode
A disadvantage of Schottky Diode

Additionally, they are more sensitive to ambient temperature changes than p-n junction diodes, which can lead to performance issues in some applications.

Finally, Schottky diodes have a higher reverse leakage current than p-n junction diodes, which can be an issue in power-efficient designs.

Application of a Schottky diode:

  • Used in high-frequency circuits.
  • Schottky diode is used as a low voltage detector.
  • Schottky diode is used as a frequency discriminator.

As an example, let’s say we are designing a buck converter. Since Mosfet in a buck converter switches with a very high frequency, the diode in this circuit should have a high switching speed. Thus Schottky diode is an optimum choice here.

What’s a Zener Diode?

A Zener diode is made up of a PN junction but is heavily doped compared to a normal diode. As a result, it can undergo breakdown without being damaged.

Zener Diode is Heavily doped
Zener Diode is Heavily doped

And Due to this property only, Zener is used as a voltage regulator in electronic circuits.

What is a Voltage Regulator
What is a Voltage Regulator

In fact, Zener diodes are never used for rectification purposes.

In the circuit given below, a Zener diode is used to prevent the MOSFET gate from being destroyed by clipping off the voltage.

Zener diode as a Voltage Regulator
Zener diode as a Voltage Regulator

The breakdown voltage of this Zener is 5.1 volts here. Now if the voltage at the gate of MOSFET exceeds 5.1V, the breakdown of the diode occurs and all the current flows through the diode to ground. Thus preventing the MOSFET from getting destroyed.

Here’s another circuit in which two Zener diodes are connected facing each other’s p terminal.

Zener diodes in a Circuit
Zener diodes in a Circuit

If an A.C signal is given at the input, one diode clips of voltage in the positive half whereas the other in the negative half, and thus we get voltage under the specified limit in both the half cycle of the input A.C voltage.

What are the disadvantages of a Zener diode?

Zener diodes have a number of disadvantages that should be considered before using them in a circuit.

  • The first disadvantage is that they have a relatively low breakdown voltage, which means that they can only be used with low voltages.
  • Also, Zener diodes are not as efficient as other types of diodes, and they can generate a fair amount of heat when in use.
  • They are not well suited for use in high-frequency circuits, as they tend to produce a great deal of electrical noise.

Application of a Zener diode:

Zener diodes are typically used in voltage regulation circuits. The Zener diode allows current to flow in the forward direction when acted upon by a voltage above the breakdown voltage, known as the Zener voltage.

However, when the voltage across the diode reaches the Zener voltage, the diode breaks down and the current flows freely in the reverse direction. This behavior can be exploited in order to create a stable voltage regulator circuit.

Another common application for Zener diodes is in reference circuits. Reference circuits are used to create a stable voltage that can be used as a reference point for other circuits. By using a Zener diode in a reference circuit, it is possible to create a highly accurate reference voltage.

Additionally, Zener diodes can be used in surge suppressor circuits. Surge suppressor circuits are used to protect electronic devices from damage caused by sudden spikes in voltage. By placing a Zener diode across the power supply lines, it is possible to effectively clamp the voltage to a safe level, preventing damage to sensitive electronic components.

As an example, A 5V Zener diode is used in the project “Digital voltmeter using Arduino“. It is connected across the capacitor(analog pin) to prevent the Arduino in case the voltage at its analog pin exceeds the 5 volts limit.

Digital Voltmeter using Arduino
Digital Voltmeter using Arduino
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Ankit Negi

I am an electrical engineer by profession who loves to tinker with electronic devices and gadgets and have been doing so for over six years now. During this period, I have made many projects and helped thousands of students through my blog and YouTube videos. I am active on Linkedin and Facebook.

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