Zener Oscillator circuits

Posted on Sep 6, 2012

These two circuits are interesting from an academic point of view. Their practical implementation is rather critical and it is not easy to get steady operation. Circuit (a) requires a `cooked` zener: connect it first to a constant current generator, then increase the current until the voltage across the zener starts to decrease. Reduce the supply current and wait a few minutes until it really warms up. The zener is now ready for the circuit: increase the voltage slowly until it oscillates (1KHz in the circuit shown). You may need to decrease the voltage once oscillation takes place. With suitable circuit components it will oscillate up to 20MHz.

Zener Oscillator circuits
Click here to download the full size of the above Circuit.

Circuit (b) will oscillate at a very low frequency, normally 2-5Hz, provided the voltage is increased very slowly, loading is critical and you may find that a slightly different lamp will work better. Higher voltage zeners work better than low voltage zeners and the circuits operate only with the specified types. The reasons for the oscillations are unknown, although, for circuit (b) it is felt that some kind of reversible thermal breakdown is at work.

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