For silicon diodes, the typical forward voltage is 0.7 volts, nominal. For germanium diodes, the forward voltage is only 0.3 volts. The chemical constituency of the P-N junction comprising the diode accounts for its nominal forward voltage figure, which is why silicon and germanium diodes have such different forward voltages. Forward voltage drop remains approximately constant for a wide range of diode currents, meaning that diode voltage drop is not like that of a resistor or even a normal (closed) switch. For most simplified circuit analysis, the voltage drop across a conducting diode may be considered constant at the nominal figure and not related to the amount of current.
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).
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