Germanium Diodes

Early semiconductor developments used germanium as the commercial, semiconductor material.

1) However, due to its ease of processing and more stable temperature characteristics, silicon eventually became the semiconductor of choice. And as a consequence of that, most early germanium semiconductors were replaced with silicon.

2) These devices were primarily transistors and diodes. However, germanium diodes have the advantage of an intrinsically low forward voltage drop, typically 0.3 volts; this low forward voltage drop results in a low power loss and more efficient diode, making it superior in many ways to the silicon diode. A silicon diode forward voltage drop, by comparison, is typically 0.7 volts.

3) This lower voltage drop for germanium becomes important in very low signal environments (signal detection from audio to FM frequencies) and in low level logic circuits. As a result germanium diodes are finding increasing application in low level digital circuits. With this increased interest in germanium diodes, certain general germanium characteristics should be understood.

4) First and most important is that of a larger leakage current for germanium at a reverse voltage than for silicon.

5) This is mitigated to some degree by the fact that in low level circuits the reverse voltage applied to a germanium diode is also usually very low, resulting in a low reverse leakage current (leakage current is directly proportional to reverse voltage). However the leakage current is still larger than with silicon. A properly designed circuit can lessen this factor.

6) American Microsemiconductor supplies an improved, low leakage current, germanium diode. Here are some more popular germanium diodes.

  Fwd Voltage Drop Reverse Current
  Peak Inv.
Max. Aver.
Current lo
At 25oC
Junction Temperature
Part no. Volts MA Max. oC Max. V MA Max. m A Volts

60 50 90 1.0 5.0 30 10

50 30 100 1.0 5.0 40 20

80 70 90 1.0 40 50 50

100 200 90 1.0 200 100 50

120 100 90 1.0 100 250 50

AMERICAN MICROSEMICONDUCTOR INC is one of the few suppliers of germanium diodes in the world; we have been supplying these parts to the largest manufactures in the world over the last 30 years and we continue to be one of the largest suppliers worldwide. We support this diode and plan to continue to do so into the distant future.