Reverse-biased usually refers to how a diode is used in a circuit. If a diode is reverse biased, the voltage at the cathode is higher than that at the anode. Therefore, no current will flow until the diode breaks down.

This effect is used to one's advantage in zener diode regulator circuits. Zener diodes have a certain - low - breakdown voltage. A standard value for breakdown voltage is for instance 5.6V. This means that the voltage at the cathode can never be more than 5.6V higher than the voltage at the anode, because the diode will break down - and therefore conduct - if the voltage gets any higher. This effectively regulates the voltage over the diode. Here is how a simple zener regulation circuit would look:

For more information, refer to Zener diode.

Another application where reverse biased diodes are used is in Varicap diodes. The width of the depletion zone of any diode changes with voltage applied. This varies the capacitance of the diode. For more information, refer to the Varicap article.

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