When the diode is reverse biased (the anode connected to a negative voltage and the cathode to a positive voltage), as shown in Fig. 2.0.6, positive holes are attracted towards the negative voltage on the anode and away from the junction. Likewise the negative electrons are attracted away from the junction towards the positive voltage applied to the cathode. This action leaves a greater area at the junction without any charge carriers (either positive holes or negative electrons) as the depletion layer widens. Because the junction area is now depleted of charge carriers it acts as an insulator, and as higher voltages are applied in reverse polarity, the depletion layer becomes wider still as more charge carriers away from the junction. The diode will not conduct with a reverse voltage (a reverse bias) applied, apart from a very small ‘Reverse Leakage Current’ (IR), which in silicon diodes is typically less than 25nA. However if the applied voltage reaches a value called the ‘Reverse Breakdown Voltage’ (VRRM) current in the reverse direction increases dramatically to a point where, if the current is not limited in some way, the diode will be destroyed.
When the polarity of the battery is such that electrons are allowed to flow through the diode, the diode is said to be forward-biased. Conversely, when the battery is “backward” and the diode blocks current, the diode is said to be reverse-biased. A diode may be thought of as like a switch: “closed” when forward-biased and “open” when reverse-biased.
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