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Diodes used for sensing light waves are called photo diodes. These diodes are also called light detectors or photo-detectors in optical devices like fibre optic communications.

It is a semiconductor device contain p-type and n-type semiconductors joined by a p-n junction.  Light rays fall on the junction and the photons with more energy then the energy gap in the semiconductor.  Then electron hole pairs are generated and are separated, creating a potential across the junction.  Electricity flows in the circuit with the diode.

The photo-current in the circuit is proportional to the intensity of the light waves incident on the diode.  

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Light sensing diodes are called photo diodes.