Reverse voltage for a diode can also be called the peak inverse voltage. It is the max amount of voltage in the reverse direction that a diode can handle.
What happens if the maximum reverse voltage of a diode is exceeded?
If this voltage is exceeded on a diode, it can be damaged due to avalanching. Avalanche breakdown allows an excessive amount of current. This occurs when the current begins to move through the layer of depletion. The extra current will pass through to try eliminate the increase in voltage being applied to the diode.
Always use the manufacturer datasheet to verify the part specification will meet the needs of your application.
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