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.

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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. 162-2376
Mfr. Part No.P13SMNFGS473MA
BrandVishay
HK$310.94
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
47 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1.5W 6 mm Linear - Cermet - ±20% P13SM 16mm
RS Stock No. 167-9568
Mfr. Part No.534B1102JC8872
BrandVishay
HK$136.449
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 168-364
Mfr. Part No.27ESA103MMF50N
HK$34.73
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 27 50mm
RS Stock No. 135-4477
Mfr. Part No.1624139-2
HK$22.269
Each (In a Box of 200)
units
4.7 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 167-9634
Mfr. Part No.14910F0GJSX10103KA
BrandVishay
HK$66.25
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% 149 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 294-3729
Mfr. Part No.860B1501
BrandVishay
HK$988.19
Each
units
500 Ω Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 8W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±1% 860 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-3581
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-501L
BrandYageo
HK$99.39
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
500 Ω Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 790-4280
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FR221KAB
BrandVishay
HK$155.80
Each
units
220 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 50mm
RS Stock No. 167-9344
Mfr. Part No.860B1501
BrandVishay
HK$1,124.56
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
500 Ω Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 8W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±1% 860 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-8751
Mfr. Part No.P16NP472MAB15
BrandVishay
HK$122.681
Each (In a Box of 20)
units
4.7 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 790-4435
Mfr. Part No.P16NP472MAB15
BrandVishay
HK$107.12
Each
units
4.7 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 502-8637
Mfr. Part No.TW1103KA
HK$121.77
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 263-3034
Mfr. Part No.RK09K1130A0H
HK$15.33
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09K -
RS Stock No. 387-745
Mfr. Part No.1623757-2
HK$52.62
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 387-739
Mfr. Part No.1624139-2
HK$45.95
Each
units
4.7 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 790-4410
Mfr. Part No.P16NP102MAB15
BrandVishay
HK$134.75
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 167-9501
Mfr. Part No.534B1501JL
BrandVishay
HK$130.72
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
500 Ω Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 219-9146
Mfr. Part No.RK27112A00AK
HK$242.91
Each
units
100 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Pin ±20% RK27 20mm
RS Stock No. 753-7284
Mfr. Part No.P13SMNFGS103MA
BrandVishay
HK$484.25
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1.5W 6 mm Linear - Cermet - ±20% P13SM 16mm
RS Stock No. 172-8059
Mfr. Part No.RK11K1120ABW
HK$9.614
Each (In a Tray of 80)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK11K -
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