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. 790-4445
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FL103KAB
BrandVishay
HK$287.31
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 25mm
RS Stock No. 167-8896
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FL103KAB
BrandVishay
HK$269.329
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 25mm
RS Stock No. 460-7526
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JL
BrandVishay
HK$228.73
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-9487
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JL
BrandVishay
HK$217.26
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 790-4312
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FR474KAB
BrandVishay
HK$160.58
Each
units
470 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 50mm
RS Stock No. 167-8689
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FR474KAB
BrandVishay
HK$197.803
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
470 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 50mm
RS Stock No. 167-8704
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FL221KAB
BrandVishay
HK$156.02
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
220 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 25mm
RS Stock No. 460-7510
Mfr. Part No.534B1102JL
BrandVishay
HK$116.40
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 790-4476
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FL221KAB
BrandVishay
HK$156.02
Each
units
220 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 25mm
RS Stock No. 167-9486
Mfr. Part No.534B1102JL
BrandVishay
HK$116.40
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 249-9238
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TWA
HK$23.91
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±10% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 172-6361
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TWA
HK$13.409
Each (In a Box of 2400)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±10% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 167-3582
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-102L
BrandBourns
HK$99.35
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 807-7171
Mfr. Part No.27ESA103MMF50NF
HK$32.54
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.4W 4 mm Linear - Carbon Solder ±20% 27 50mm
RS Stock No. 107-0757
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-102L
BrandBourns
HK$121.40
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 164-5242
Mfr. Part No.27ESA103MMF50NF
HK$26.02
Each (In a Box of 100)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.4W 4 mm Linear - Carbon Solder ±20% 27 50mm
RS Stock No. 162-776
Mfr. Part No.404802692032
HK$151.55
Each
units
100 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% M 25.4mm
RS Stock No. 850-9782
Mfr. Part No.534-1-1-101
BrandVishay
HK$98.01
Each
units
100 Ω Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-9574
Mfr. Part No.534B1502JC8872
BrandVishay
HK$159.289
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 486-7150
Mfr. Part No.534B1502JC8872
BrandVishay
HK$144.46
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
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