When P and N type silicon are brought together during manufacture, a junction is created where the P type and N type materials meet, and holes close to the junction in the P type silicon are attracted into negatively charged N type material at the other side of the junction. Also, electrons close to the junction in the N type silicon are attracted into the positively charged P type silicon. Therefore along the junction between the P and N type silicon, a small natural potential is set up between the P and N semiconductor material with negatively charged electrons now on the P type side of the junction, and positively charged holes on the N side of the junction. This layer of opposite polarity charge carriers builds up until it is just sufficient to prevent the free movement of any further holes or electrons. Because of this natural electrical potential across the junction, a very thin layer has been formed between the P and N layers at the PN junction that is now depleted of charge carriers and so is called the Depletion Layer. When a diode is connected into a circuit therefore, no current can flow between anode and cathode until the anode is made more positive than the cathode by a forward potential or voltage(VF) at least sufficient to overcome the natural reverse potential of the junction. This value depends mainly on the materials the P and N layers of the diode are made from and the amount of doping used. Different types of diode have natural reverse potentials ranging from approximately 0.1V to 2 or 3V. Silicon PN junction diodes have a junction potential of about 0.6V to 0.7V
You need not be familiar with the “diode equation” to analyze simple diode circuits. Just understand that the voltage dropped across a current-conducting diode does change with the amount of current going through it, but that this change is fairly small over a wide range of currents. This is why many textbooks simply say the voltage drop across a conducting, semiconductor diode remains constant at 0.7 volts for silicon and 0.3 volts for germanium. However, some circuits intentionally make use of the P-N junction’s inherent exponential current/voltage relationship and thus can only be understood in the context of this equation. Also, since temperature is a factor in the diode equation, a forward-biased P-N junction may also be used as a temperature-sensing device, and thus can only be understood if one has a conceptual grasp on this mathematical relationship.
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