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A thyristor is a solid-state semiconductor device with four layers of alternating P and N-type materials. It acts exclusively as a bistable switch, conducting when the gate receives a current trigger, and continuing to conduct while the voltage across the device is not reversed (forward-biased). A three-lead thyristor is designed to control the larger current of its two leads by combining that current with the smaller current of its other lead, known as its control lead. In contrast, a two-lead thyristor is designed to switch on if the potential difference between its leads is sufficiently large (breakdown voltage).

Some sources define silicon-controlled rectifier (SCR) and thyristor as synonymous. Other sources define thyristors as a larger set of devices with at least four layers of alternating N and P-type material.

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