The behavior is typically the same for both directions of current flow. Most DIACs have a breakdown voltage around 30 V. In this way, their behavior is somewhat similar to (but much more precisely controlled and taking place at lower voltages than) a neon lamp.
DIACs are a form of thyristor but without a gate electrode. They are typically used for triggering both thyristors and TRIACs - a bidirectional member of the thyristor family. Because of this common usage, many TRIACs contain a built-in DIAC in series with the TRIAC's "gate" terminal.
DIACs are also called symmetrical trigger diodes due to the symmetry of their characteristic curve. Because DIACs are bidirectional devices, their terminals are not labeled as anode or cathode but as A1 and A2 or MT1 ("Main Terminal") and MT2.
The trisil device has very similar V-A characteristics.
The SIDAC is a less common electrically equivalent device, the difference in naming being determined by the manufacturer. In general, SIDACs have higher breakover voltages and current handling.
The SIDAC, or Silicon Diode for Alternating Current, is a of the thyristor family. Also referred to as a SYDAC (Silicon thYristor for Alternating Current), bi-directional thyristor breakover diode, or more simply a bi-directional thyristor diode, it is technically specified as a bilateral voltage triggered switch. Its operation is similar to that of the DIAC; the distinction in naming between the two devices being subject to the particular manufacturer. In general, SIDACs have higher breakover voltages and current handling capacities than DIACs.
The operation of the SIDAC is quite simple and is functionally similar to that of a spark gap. The SIDAC remains nonconducting until the applied voltage meets or exceeds its rated breakover voltage. Once entering this conductive state, the SIDAC continues to conduct, regardless of voltage, until the applied current falls below its rated holding current. At this point, the SIDAC returns to its initial nonconductive state to begin the cycle once again.
Somewhat uncommon in most electronics, the SIDAC is relegated to the status of a special purpose device. However, where part-counts are to be kept low, simple relaxation oscillators are needed, and when the voltages are too low for practical operation of a spark gap, the SIDAC is an indispensable component.
Versions of the SIDAC that are designed to tolerate large surge currents for the suppression of voltage transients are known as Thyristor Surge Protection Devices (TSPD), SIDACtors, or the now-obsolete Surgector.