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?

Potentiometer KnobsPotentiometer Accessories Potentiometer Mounting Nuts

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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. 853-6800
Mfr. Part No.53C25K
BrandHoneywell
$32.57
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Surface Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 15.9mm
RS Stock No. 831-8801
Mfr. Part No.53C3500
BrandHoneywell
$34.71
Each
units
500Ω Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-8762
Mfr. Part No.53C310K
BrandHoneywell
$23.91
Each
units
10kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-8790
Mfr. Part No.53C3250K
BrandHoneywell
$25.63
Each
units
250kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-6732
Mfr. Part No.73JB5K
BrandHoneywell
$63.34
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 73 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 831-8778
Mfr. Part No.53C315K
BrandHoneywell
$16.85
Each
units
15kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-8788
Mfr. Part No.53C3250
BrandHoneywell
$24.81
Each
units
250Ω Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 854-1669
Mfr. Part No.53C33500
BrandHoneywell
$25.39
Each
units
3.5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Surface Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-8810
Mfr. Part No.53C3500K
BrandHoneywell
$26.02
Each
units
500kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-8817
Mfr. Part No.53C35K
BrandHoneywell
$40.46
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-0487
Mfr. Part No.380C310K
BrandHoneywell
$29.88
Each
units
10kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 380 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-0431
Mfr. Part No.380C110K
BrandHoneywell
$39.09
Each
units
10kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug - 380 50.8mm
RS Stock No. 831-8781
Mfr. Part No.53C31MEG
BrandHoneywell
$31.74
Each
units
1MΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-6669
Mfr. Part No.53C110K
BrandHoneywell
$29.57
Each
units
10kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 19.1mm
RS Stock No. 831-8772
Mfr. Part No.53C31K
BrandHoneywell
$26.20
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-8775
Mfr. Part No.53C31500
BrandHoneywell
$25.36
Each
units
1.5kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-8766
Mfr. Part No.53C3150
BrandHoneywell
$26.29
Each
units
150Ω Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-6772
Mfr. Part No.JA1N056S102UA
BrandHoneywell
$97.00
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder ±10% J 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 831-6704
Mfr. Part No.73JA5K
BrandHoneywell
$88.79
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 73 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 831-6690
Mfr. Part No.53C125K
BrandHoneywell
$28.97
Each
units
25kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 19.1mm