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, it’s 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. 502-8637
Mfr. Part No.TW1103KA
£7.36
Each
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear 10mm Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 135-5049
Mfr. Part No.TW1103KA
£5.01
Each (In a Box of 500)
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear 10mm Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 167-9487
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JL
BrandVishay
£13.219
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. 460-7526
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JL
BrandVishay
£18.58
Each
Units
10 kΩ Linear 10 - Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm - - - Solder Lug ±5% 534 -
RS Stock No. 249-9238
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TWA
£2.09
Each
Units
10 kΩ Linear 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm - 7.35mm - Pin ±10% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 172-6361
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TWA
£1.234
Each (In a Box of 2400)
Units
- Linear 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm - 7.35mm - Pin ±10% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 502-8621
Mfr. Part No.TW1502KA
£8.14
Each
Units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear 10mm Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 135-5048
Mfr. Part No.TW1502KA
£5.349
Each (In a Box of 500)
Units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear 10mm Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 172-6430
Mfr. Part No.RK27112MC01P
£15.03
Each (In a Tray of 15)
Units
- Logarithmic 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - 9mm Carbon Pin ±20% RK27 20mm
RS Stock No. 234-6617
Mfr. Part No.RK27112MC01P
£16.70
Each
Units
50 kΩ Logarithmic 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - 9mm Carbon Pin ±20% RK27 20mm
RS Stock No. 167-3585
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-103L
BrandBourns
£9.347
Each (In a Tray of 25)
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 107-0785
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-103L
BrandBourns
£10.68
Each
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-9473
Mfr. Part No.157S103MX
BrandVishay
£28.804
Each (In a Box of 10)
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear 9.525mm Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 11.1mm
RS Stock No. 294-3690
Mfr. Part No.157S103MX
BrandVishay
£36.86
Each
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear 9.525mm Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 11.1mm
RS Stock No. 317-780
BrandRS Pro
£24.11
Each
Units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount - 3 mm Linear 15.9mm Conductive Plastic Wire Lead ±20% LM10 -
RS Stock No. 154-8178
Mfr. Part No.RK11K1140A3L
£0.774
Each (In a Bag of 5)
Units
- Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear 1mm - Solder ±20% RK11K 27.5mm
RS Stock No. 263-3191
Mfr. Part No.RK11K1140A3L
BrandAlps
£1.00
Each
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Pin ±20% RK11K 27.5mm
RS Stock No. 172-6311
Mfr. Part No.RK11K1140A3L
£0.697
Each (In a Tray of 80)
Units
- Linear 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - - - Pin ±20% RK11K -
RS Stock No. 167-9502
Mfr. Part No.534B1502JL
BrandVishay
£11.244
Each (In a Box of 10)
Units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 460-7582
Mfr. Part No.534B1502JL
BrandVishay
£16.24
Each
Units
5 kΩ Linear 10 - Panel Mount 2W 6.34 mm - - - Solder Lug ±5% 534 -
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