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.
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.
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