Since a diode can be placed in a high-impedance state (reverse-biased) or a low-impedance state (forward-biased), they are sometimes used to switch AC signals, including audio and RF. What determines the magnitude of a signal that a diode can switch?
When diodes are used for signal switching, there are two considerations with regard to the magnitude of the signal relative to the DC control signal:
- In the Blocking state, the reverse bias voltage must be greater than the peak signal voltage to prevent signal leakage. Also, a high-bias voltage reduces the parasitic capacitance through the diode. PIN diodes are often used for RF switching because of their ultra-low capacitance.
- In the On state, the forward DC control current through diode must be greater than the peak AC signal current, and it must be large enough so that the current doesn’t approach the diode curve’s “knee” too closely, introducing distortion.
Obviously, the diode needs to be rated for both the peak reverse voltage and the peak forward current created by the combination of the control signal and the application signal.