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Diodes are two terminal devices that conduct very differently in one direction verses another. The basic use takes advantage of this property, but the are other characteristics that are also useful and special diodes that take advantage of these properties.


A diode lets current through in one direction but not another. It acts somewhat an infinite resistance in one direction, and a 0 resistance in the other direction. A more accurate description ( but not complete ) says that in the low resistance direction there must be a .6 v drop before much current flows.

Other Reading

Use: Rectifier

Changing alternating current to direct current. A standard in almost all plug in power supplies and most electronic circuits run on DC. Application Note Vishay General Semiconductor

Use: Detector

As in an amplitude modulated radio ( AM ) where the radio signal is changed to an audio signal.

Use: Snubber

Some circuits, typically those with inductance like inductors, motors, relays and solenoids, generate a large back or reverse voltage when they turn off. Often a diode will be inserted to "short circuit" this voltage/current. This can prevent damage to other circuit components.

Use: Steering

Sending a voltage/current in a particular direction in a circuit

Use: Exponential/Logarithmic Converter

The current in the forward direction is an exponential function of the voltage. Together with an op amp this can be used to convert voltages to via an exponential or logarithmic function. These in turn can be used for multiplication, division, powers and roots. See OpAmp Links

Use: Clipping, Bias Voltage ( Temperature Sensing )

In the forward direction a junction has about .6 volts when conducting ( as does the base emitter junction of a bipolar transistor ). This voltage is useful as a small well defined voltage for bias in a transistor circuit. Often 2 or more will be used in series for a higher voltage. If the input is a varying voltage the output is equal to the input and then begins to clip ( stop rising ) at about .6 volts. Feeding in a triangle wave at the right amplitude you get out a triangle wave with the points rounded off, an approximate sine wave. The bias voltage is somewhat temperature sensitive, you can used this in an electronic thermometer circuit.

Use: Over Voltage Protection

Many circuits cannot tolerate voltage over a certain limit ( often the power supply voltage ). Connecting a diode from the circuit input to the power supply can "short out" the over voltage. Make sure the diode is connected in the proper direction.

Use: Bridge

This is an arrangement that is used for full wave rectification and some other circuits that are a bit tricky. Not explained here and now but Google will help you out

Use: Reverse Protection

Many circuits destroy themselves when connected backwards to a voltage source. Connecting a diode in series with the circuit blocks the reverse voltage. See Reverse Protection Diodes.

Use: Voltage Doubler

Diodes and resistors can be used to produce high voltages from AC without transformers. See Using Rectifiers in Voltage Multiplier Circuits Application Note Vishay General Semiconductor. We should have a voltage doubler in our basic circuits section, do we?

Use: Isolation

Light Emitting Diode

The LED see LED

Tunnel Variable Capacitor Trans Diode

Other Special Types

Shockley Junction, Tunnel, variable capacitance.....


see Sensors photo

PG31-PowerSupply.jpg Reverse Protection Diodes - PTH and SMD diodes to protect against reverse polarization.