Posted on July 1, 2013
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A crystal diode detector is an electronic component that was first invented at the turn of the twentieth century. This type of diode was commonly used in crystal radios from around 1906 through World War II. Sometimes known as a cat’s-whisker detector, the diode works by having a wire lightly touching a semiconducting crystal mineral. In most cases, the mineral used was galena, the mineral form of lead sulfide. Other minerals used in place of galena was iron pyrite, silicon or carborundum.
This type of radio reached the height of its popularity around 1920. Once vacuum tube amplified receivers were introduced, the crystal diode detector became a tool of radio hobbyists rather than being used in commercially produced radio sets.
This type of diode detector is no longer used in modern radio equipment, however it is an important component for antique radios to function properly. Crystal diode detectors can still be created today using the best semiconducting mineral material available, a thin wire coiled in the center and a slide tuning coil to pick up radio stations. Modern equipment can also be used to create this diode detector including glass capsules, metal screw caps and other common materials.