In the context of diodes, "reverse leakage current" refers to the small current that flows through a diode in the opposite direction of its intended forward-biased operation. A diode is a semiconductor device that allows current to flow in one direction while blocking current flow in the opposite direction. When a diode is forward-biased (i.e., its anode is at a higher voltage than its cathode), it conducts current easily. However, when it is reverse-biased (i.e., its anode is at a lower voltage than its cathode), it should ideally block any significant current flow.
In reality, no diode is perfect, and there will always be a small amount of leakage current that flows through the diode when it is reverse-biased. This leakage current is due to several factors, including:
Minority carriers: In a semiconductor diode, there are always some minority charge carriers (electrons in the P-type material and holes in the N-type material) present even when the diode is not actively conducting current. These minority carriers can contribute to the reverse leakage current.
Defects and impurities: Imperfections, defects, and impurities in the semiconductor material can create localized paths for charge carriers to flow in the reverse direction, leading to leakage current.
Temperature: Temperature can influence the mobility of charge carriers, and at higher temperatures, the reverse leakage current can increase.
Breakdown effects: When the reverse voltage across the diode exceeds a certain threshold value, it may enter a reverse breakdown region, where the leakage current increases significantly.
Reverse leakage current is usually very small compared to the forward current in typical diode applications. However, in certain sensitive electronic circuits or low-power applications, even this small leakage current can be a concern as it can affect the overall circuit performance. Therefore, when selecting diodes for specific applications, engineers need to consider the reverse leakage current specifications to ensure the diode's behavior aligns with the desired performance of the circuit.