Diodes, both vacuum and semiconductor, can be used as shot-noise generators.

The plate, not being heated, does not emit electrons; but is able to absorb them.

The alternating voltage to be rectified is applied between the cathode and the plate. When the plate voltage is positive with respect to the cathode, the plate electrostatically attracts the electrons from the cathode, so a current of electrons flows through the tube from cathode to plate. When the plate voltage is negative with respect to the cathode, no electrons are emitted by the plate, so no current can pass from the plate to the cathode.

A diode's I–V characteristic can be approximated by four regions of operation:

At higher currents, the forward voltage drop of the diode increases. A drop of 1 V to 1.5 V is typical at full rated current for power diodes.

For even rather small forward bias voltages the exponential is very large since the thermal voltage is very small in comparison. The subtracted '1' in the diode equation is then negligible and the forward diode current can be approximated by

The use of the diode equation in circuit problems is illustrated in the article on diode modeling.

Following the end of forwarding conduction in a p–n type diode, a reverse current can flow for a short time. The device does not attain its blocking capability until the mobile charge in the junction is depleted.

The reverse current ceases abruptly when the stored charge is depleted; this abrupt stop is exploited in step recovery diodes for the generation of extremely short pulses.

These are diodes that conduct in the reverse direction when the reverse bias voltage exceeds the breakdown voltage. These are electrically very similar to Zener diodes (and are often mistakenly called Zener diodes), but break down by a different mechanism: the avalanche effect. This occurs when the reverse electric field applied across the p–n junction causes a wave of ionization, reminiscent of an avalanche, leading to a large current. Avalanche diodes are designed to break down at a well-defined reverse voltage without being destroyed. The difference between the avalanche diode (which has a reverse breakdown above about 6.2 V) and the Zener is that the channel length of the former exceeds the mean free path of the electrons, resulting in many collisions between them on the way through the channel. The only practical difference between the two types is they have temperature coefficients of opposite polarities.
Super barrier diodes are rectifier diodes that incorporate the low forward voltage drop of the Schottky diode with the surge-handling capability and low reverse leakage current of a normal p–n junction diode.

Other uses for semiconductor diodes include the sensing of temperature, and computing analog logarithms (see ).

The JIS semiconductor designation system has all semiconductor diode designations starting with "1S".

Other common numbering/coding systems (generally manufacturer-driven) include:

Since most electronic circuits can be damaged when the polarity of their power supply inputs are reversed, a series diode is sometimes used to protect against such situations. This concept is known by multiple naming variations that mean the same thing: reverse voltage protection, reverse polarity protection, and reverse battery protection.

Semiconductor detectors for high-energy particles are used in large numbers. Because of energy loss fluctuations, accurate measurement of the energy deposited is of less use.

Diodes can be used to limit the positive or negative excursion of a signal to a prescribed voltage.

This simple diode clamp will clamp the negative peaks of the incoming waveform to the common rail voltage

A diode clamp circuit can take a periodic alternating current signal that oscillates between positive and negative values, and vertically displace it such that either the positive or the negative peaks occur at a prescribed level. The clamper does not restrict the peak-to-peak excursion of the signal, it moves the whole signal up or down so as to place the peaks at the reference level.