Potentiometers

What is a potentiometer?

A potentiometer is a variable resistor. Potentiometers enable you to regulate and change the current flowing through a circuit. Potentiometers can also be called pots or potmeters.

Potentiometers have two terminals that are fixed to a resistive element (the track). The resistive element is typically wirewound or made from carbon, cermet or conductive plastic. The third terminal is connected to the wiper, which is a sliding contact. As the wiper moves along the track, the resistance changes and the current flowing through the circuit changes.

Types of potentiometer

Rotary potentiometers are easily controlled by turning a spindle or a knob. Rotary potentiometers can be single turn or multiturn.

Slide potentiometers are also known as slider potentiometers or fader potentiometers. To use a slide potentiometer, its simply a case of sliding a fader along a straight track to change the resistance.

Trimmer potentiometers, sometimes called trimpots, are used to calibrate and fine-tune circuits and can be mounted straight onto a PCB (printed circuit board). Trimmer potentiometers are easy to adjust with a screwdriver.

String potentiometers (or string pots) take movement and transform it into an electrical signal.

Membrane potentiometers are completely flat. Membrane potentiometers change their resistance when pressure is applied to the membrane.

Do I need a potentiometer with a linear or logarithmic taper?

The taper you need for your potentiometer depends on the intended application.

For potentiometers with a linear taper, the resistance between one end of the track and the wiper varies at a constant rate. If you turn the potentiometer halfway or slide the fader halfway along the track, the resistance will be half of the total resistance. Linear taper potentiometers are typically used in applications such as light dimmer switches.

For logarithmic taper potentiometers, the resistance does not vary at a constant rate. The level of resistance moves exponentially up or down. A potentiometer that has been turned or moved halfway along its track, will not produce resistance that is half the total resistance. Logarithmic potentiometers are commonly used for audio applications.

What is the difference between a potentiometer and a rheostat?

The key difference is the number of terminals that each device has. Potentiometers have three terminals while rheostats only have two terminals.

Looking for peripherals for your potentiometer?

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Description Price Maximum Resistance Potentiometer Type Number of Turns Number of Gangs Mounting Type Power Rating Shaft Diameter Electrical Taper Mounting Hole Diameter Element Material Termination Style Tolerance Series Shaft Length
RS Stock No. 173-0717
BrandRS PRO
$4.123
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7021
BrandRS PRO
$9.34
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 317-780
BrandRS PRO
$91.24
Each
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount - 3 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Wire Lead ±20% LM10 -
RS Stock No. 173-0739
BrandRS PRO
$5.967
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 3W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P40 68mm
RS Stock No. 842-7015
BrandRS PRO
$29.73
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P40 68mm
RS Stock No. 173-0740
BrandRS PRO
$5.967
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 3W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P40 68mm
RS Stock No. 812-819
BrandRS PRO
$82.36
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 170-5314
BrandRS PRO
$85.466
Each (In a Box of 100)
units
1kΩ Linear 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 842-7100
BrandRS PRO
$37.01
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P40 68mm
RS Stock No. 812-825
BrandRS PRO
$111.54
Each
units
2kΩ Rotary 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 170-5315
BrandRS PRO
$85.466
Each (In a Box of 100)
units
2kΩ Linear 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 842-7024
BrandRS PRO
$9.34
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0767
BrandRS PRO
$75.299
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1kΩ - 1 - Servo Mount 3W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% 50WW 21.5mm
RS Stock No. 173-0719
BrandRS PRO
$4.123
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7153
BrandRS PRO
$88.09
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% 50WW 21.5mm
RS Stock No. 173-0759
BrandRS PRO
$14.973
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±20% P25 22mm
RS Stock No. 842-7116
BrandRS PRO
$14.50
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±20% P25 22mm
RS Stock No. 173-0735
BrandRS PRO
$4.34
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
100Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0736
BrandRS PRO
$5.371
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
2kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 3W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P40 68mm
RS Stock No. 842-7217
BrandRS PRO
$359.02
Each
units
10kΩ Linear - 1 Spring Return - - Linear - Conductive Plastic - ±20% WT22 -
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