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Miguel Luis R.

Engr. Katrina Acapulco

A diode is a specialized electronic component with two
electrodes called the anode and the cathode. Most diodes are
made with semiconductor materials such as silicon,
germanium, or selenium. Some diodes are comprised of
metal electrodes in a chamber evacuated or filled with a pure
elemental gas at low pressure. Diodes can be used as
rectifiers, signal limiters, voltage regulators, switches, signal
modulators, signal mixers, signal demodulators,
and oscillators.
The fundamental property of a diode is its tendency to
conduct electric current in only one direction. When the
cathode is negatively charged relative to the anode at
a voltage greater than a certain minimum called forward
breakover, then current flows through the diode. If the
cathode is positive with respect to the anode, is at the same
voltage as the anode, or is negative by an amount less than
the forward breakover voltage, then the diode does not
conduct current. This is a simplistic view, but is true for
diodes operating as rectifiers, switches, and limiters. The
forward breakover voltage is approximately six tenths of a
volt (0.6 V) for silicon devices, 0.3 V for germanium devices,
and 1 V for selenium devices.

The above general rule notwithstanding, if the cathode

voltage is positive relative to the anode voltage by a great
enough amount, the diode will conduct current. The voltage
required to produce this phenomenon, known as
the avalanche voltage, varies greatly depending on the
nature of the semiconductor material from which the device
is fabricated. The avalanche voltage can range from a few
volts up to several hundred volts.
When an analog signal passes through a diode operating at
or near its forward breakover point, the signal waveform is
distorted. This nonlinearity allows for modulation,
demodulation, and signal mixing. In addition, signals are
generated at harmonics, or integral multiples of the
input frequency. Some diodes also have a characteristic that
is imprecisely termed negative resistance. Diodes of this
type, with the application of a voltage at the correct level and
the polarity, generate analog signals at microwave radio
Semiconductor diodes can be designed to produce direct
current (DC) when visible light, infrared transmission (IR), or
ultraviolet (UV) energy strikes them. These diodes are known
as photovoltaic cells and are the basis for solar electric
energy systems and photosensors. Yet another form of diode,
commonly used in electronic and computer equipment, emits
visible light or IR energy when current passes through it. Such
a device is the familiar light-emitting diode (LED).
In electronics, a diode is a two-terminal electronic
component that conducts primarily in one direction
(asymmetric conductance); it has low (ideally
zero) resistance to the flow of current in one direction, and
high (ideally infinite) resistance in the other.
A semiconductor diode, the most common type today, is
a crystalline piece of semiconductor material with a pn

junction connected to two electrical terminals. A vacuum

tube diode has two electrodes, a plate (anode) and a heated
cathode. Semiconductor diodes were the first semiconductor
electronic devices. The discovery of crystals' rectifying
abilities was made by German physicist Ferdinand Braun in
1874. The first semiconductor diodes, called cat's whisker
diodes, developed around 1906, were made of mineral
crystals such as galena. Today, most diodes are made
of silicon, but other semiconductors such as selenium or
germanium are sometimes used.
The most common function of a diode is to allow an electric
current to pass in one direction (called the diode's
forward direction), while blocking current in the opposite
direction (the reverse direction). Thus, the diode can be
viewed as an electronic version of a check valve.
This unidirectional behavior is called rectification, and is used
to convert alternating current to direct current, including
extraction of modulation from radio signals in radio receivers
these diodes are forms of rectifiers.
However, diodes can have more complicated behavior than
this simple onoff action, due to their nonlinear currentvoltage characteristics. Semiconductor diodes begin
conducting electricity only if a certain threshold voltage or
cut-in voltage is present in the forward direction (a state in
which the diode is said to be forward-biased). The voltage
drop across a forward-biased diode varies only a little with
the current, and is a function of temperature; this effect can
be used as a temperature sensor or as a voltage reference.
A semiconductor diode's currentvoltage characteristic can
be tailored by selecting the semiconductor materials and
the doping impurities introduced into the materials during
manufacture. These techniques are used to create special-

purpose diodes that perform many different functions. For

example, diodes are used to regulate voltage (Zener diodes),
to protect circuits from high voltage surges (avalanche
diodes), to electronically tune radio and TV receivers
(varactor diodes), to generate radiofrequency oscillations (tunnel diodes, Gunn diodes, IMPATT
diodes), and to produce light (light-emitting diodes). Tunnel,
Gunn and IMPATT diodes exhibit negative resistance, which is
useful in microwave and switching circuits.

Electronic symbols
The symbol used for a semiconductor diode in a circuit
diagram specifies the type of diode. There are alternative
symbols for some types of diodes, though the differences are

Schottky diode

Light Emitting Diode (LED)


Typical diode packages in

same alignment as diode
Thin bar depicts the

Tunnel diode

Transient Voltage
Suppression (TVS)


Zener diode