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What is a Germanium Diode?

By Jessica Reed
Updated May 16, 2024
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Germanium diodes are part of an electrical circuit and conduct electrical signal through the diode traveling in one direction only. Diodes such as this one are constructed out of a semiconductor material and impurities are added to the germanium so it will allow the right amount of current to pass through. Though not as popular as the silicone diode, a germanium diode does have certain advantages over silicone. Less energy is lost in a germanium diode as the current passes through as compared to the loss in a silicone diode. This makes it an ideal choice for dealing with signals caused by small currents where a large loss of energy could disrupt the signal.

The diode only allows current to flow in one direction. In a perfect scenario, diodes would lose no energy as the current traveled through it and no current would flow backward. In reality, however, a certain amount of current does get through going the wrong direction and some energy is lost in the form of heat from the current traveling through the diode. The germanium diode once suffered from current loss due to current traveling the wrong direction, but improvements in its design have dramatically decreased this problem. It has an advantage over silicone diodes when it comes to current lost to heat.

While silicone diodes lose about 0.7 volts for each diode the current passes through, each germanium diode only loses about 0.3 volts. Despite this advantage, silicone diodes are the diode of choice for most electrical circuits and equipment. Though they have a slightly higher voltage loss from heat, the silicone diode is cheaper and easier to produce. It also handles larger currents better. The germanium diode works well for small jobs, but most technology needs something that can handle more power.

One of the most well-known germanium diodes is the 1N34 diode. This diode is still used today in some analog technologies and in radio receivers. Once used in certain radios, these diodes are still available to find though they are slowly becoming scarcer. The 1N34 diode represents the standard germanium diode structure before silicone diodes grew in popularity and began to replace germanium for most applications.

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Discussion Comments

By anon334547 — On May 13, 2013

I am trying to build an electrostatic receiver on a scale to fully power a four-bedroom, two-bath home at full capacity with a full size shop without interruption of any service like tesla did. Any suggestions on capacitor or diode size, quantity and placement on what scale?

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