A power diode is a p-n junction device that has some constructional changes compared to low power signal diodes and is rated for kilovolts, kilo amperes, and kilowatts.

The common application of power diodes is freewheeling didoes used for recovery of trapped energy, rectifier circuits.

PN Junction

A p-n junction diode is formed when a p-type semiconductor physically contacts an n-type semiconductor. The p-region has a high concentration of holes (majority carriers) and low electron concentration (minority carrier). The n-region has a high concentration of electrons (majority carrier) and a low concentration of holes (minority carriers).

Generally, p+ indicates a highly doped p-region, and n indicates a lightly doped n-region.

Formation of Depletion Layer

When p-region and n-region come in contact with each other, electrons from the n-region diffuse into the p-region leaving a positive charge behind. Similarly, holes from the p region diffuse into the n-region leaving behind a negative charge. Due to this diffusion n region has a positive charge and the p region has a negative charge near the junction. These charges across the junction produce an electric field. This field stops further diffusion. So, each side of the junction remains with immobile ions. This region extends in both p and n semiconductor layers called depletion region or space charge region. The potential difference across depletion region is called barrier potential (VT).

For Si, V = 0.7 V and for Ge, VT = 0.3 V.

Power Diode

Forward Biased diode: When p region connected to positive terminal and n region to the negative terminal. The forward Bias voltage is inversely proportional to the width of the depletion region.

Reverse Biased diode: When n region connected to positive terminal and p region to the negative terminal. The reverse Bias voltage is directly proportional to the width of the depletion region.

Note: As the junction temperature increase, the width of the depletion region/ barrier potential decreases.

Note: If the region is lightly doped then the depletion region extends more in it and it has a large breakdown voltage. If the region is highly doped then the depletion region extends less in it and it has a small breakdown voltage.

Construction of Power Diode

It has a highly doped n+ region. On which there is, a lightly doped ‘n‘ layer. This ‘n‘ layer is lightly doped (nearly intrinsic) and the lightly doped region has a high reverse blocking capability. The thickness of the n-layer is proportional to the breakdown voltage. Because of this ‘n‘ layer or called the ‘i’ layer the diode is also known as a p-n diode.

Power Diode

V-I Characteristics of Power Diode

Power Diode

During forward bias from Va = 0 to, VT forward anode current is very small. Beyond Cut-in voltage or threshold voltage or turn-on voltage (VT= 1V for power diode), anode current rises rapidly and the diode starts conducting. For signal diodes, the anode current increases first exponentially then linearly while in the case of power diode anode current rises linearly.

During reverse bias, small reverse anode current flow called leakage current up to breakdown voltage (VBR). After VBR reverse current increase abruptly. It may destroy the diode and must be avoided.

For ideal diode forward drop is zero, reverse leakage current is zero, i.e. VBR = ∞, VT = 0.

The manufacturer indicates peak inverse voltage (PIV) which is the same as VBR.

Power Diode Reverse Recovery Characteristics

When the diode is reversed biased, the anode current starts decreasing linearly from If to zero. After the forward diode current decays to zero the diode continues to conduct in the reverse direction because of the pressure of stored charges in the depletion region and semiconductor layers. The diode regains its blocking capability until the reverse recovery current decays to zero.

Power Diode


trr = time for which reverse current flows from the instant when anode current becomes zero to reverse recovery current decays to 25% of its reverse peak value IRM. This time decides the switching frequency of any circuit.

ta = time between zero crossings of forwarding current and IRM reached. During this time stored charges in the depletion layer are removed.

tb = time between IRM reached to reverse reached 0.25 IRM. During this time charges from the semiconductor layer are removed.

Qr = stored charges or reverse recovery charge which is represented by the shaded area. It must be removed in time trr.

S =tb/ ta = softness or S-factor. It is the measure of voltage transients that occur during the time the diode recovers. If S is small, then the diode has a large oscillatory voltage.

If S = 1; soft recovery diode

If S < 1; snappy recovery diode or fast recovery diode.

Power Diode

Using equation (1), (2), and (3) we get;

Power Diode

Classification of Power Diode

  1. General Purpose diode: trr = 25 micro-sec, rated kilo-Ampere, 50 kV, used in rectifiers.
  2. Fast Recovery Diode: trr = 5 micro-sec, rated few 100 Ampere, 3 kV, used in the chopper.
  3. Schottky Diodes: trr = nano-seconds, rated few 300 Ampere, 100 V, used in SMPS (switch mode power supply). They are the fastest diodes.