- Flyback Diode Protection
When the switch is opened, the inductor will attempt to resist the sudden drop of current (dI/dt is large therefore V is large) by using its stored magnetic field energy to create its own voltage. An extremely large negative potential is created where there once was positive potential, and a positive potential is created where there was once negative potential. The switch, however, remains at the voltage of the power supply, but it is still in contact with the inductor pulling down a negative voltage. Since no connection is physically made to allow current to continue to flow (due to the switch being open), the large potential difference can cause electrons to “arc” across the air-gap of the open switch (or junction of a transistor). This is undesirable for the reasons mentioned above and must be prevented.
- Without Flyback Diode
A flyback diode solves this starvation-arc problem by allowing the inductor to draw current from itself (thus, “flyback”) in a continuous loop until the energy is dissipated through losses in the wire, the diode and the resistor. When the switch is closed the diode is reverse-biased against the power supply and doesn’t exist in the circuit for practical purposes. However, when the switch is opened, the diode becomes forward-biased relative to the inductor (instead of the power supply as before), allowing it to conduct current in a circular loop from the positive potential at the bottom of the inductor to the negative potential at the top (assuming the power supply was supplying positive voltage at the top of the inductor prior to the switch being opened). The voltage across the inductor will merely be a function of the forward voltage drop of the flyback diode. Total time for dissipation can vary, but it will usually last for a few milliseconds.