The Silicon Controlled Rectifier (SCR) is simply a conventional rectifier controlled by a gate signal. The main circuit is a rectifier, however the application of a forward voltage is not enough for conduction. A gate signal controls the rectifier conduction. The schematic representation is:


The rectifier circuit (anode-cathode) has a low forward resistance and a high reverse resistance. It is controlled from an off state (high resistance) to the on state (low resistance) by a signal applied to the third terminal, the gate. Once it is turned on it remains on even after removal of the gate signal, as long as a minimum current, the holding current, Ih, is maintained in the main or rectifier circuit. To turn off an SCR the anode-cathode current must be reduced to less than the holding current, Ih. The characteristic curve is as shown below:


Notice the reverse characteristics are the same as discussed previously for the rectifier or diode, having a breakover voltage with its attending avalanche current; and a leakage current for voltages less than the breakover voltage. However, in the forward direction with open gate, the SCR remains essentially in an off condition (notice though that there is a small forward leakage) up until the forward breakover voltage is reached. At that point the curve snaps back to a typical forward rectifier characteristic. The application of a small forward gate voltage switches the SCR onto its standard diode forward characteristic for voltages less than the forward breakover voltage.

Obviously, the SCR can also be switched by exceeding the forward breakover voltage, however this is usually considered a design limitation and switching is normally controlled with a gate voltage. One serious limitation of the SCR is the rate of rise of voltage with respect to time, dV/dt. A large rate of rise of circuit voltage can trigger an SCR into conduction. This is a circuit design concern. Most SCR applications are in power switching, phase control, chopper, and inverter circuits.

Major considerations when ordering a SCR are:
(a) Peak forward and reverse breakdown voltages
(b) Maximum forward current
(c) Gate trigger voltage and current
(d) Minimum holding current,Ih
(e) Power dissipation
(f) Maximum dV/dt