Potentiometers

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. You can learn more in our complete guide to potentiometers.

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.

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. 249-9238
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TWA
£2.77
Each
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - Carbon Pin ±10% RK163 30mm
RS Stock No. 172-6361
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TWA
£1.128
Each (In a Box of 2400)
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±10% RK163 30mm
RS Stock No. 172-6430
Mfr. Part No.RK27112MC01P
£16.539
Each (In a Tray of 15)
Units
50kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Pin ±20% RK27 20mm
RS Stock No. 234-6617
Mfr. Part No.RK27112MC01P
£24.21
Each
Units
50kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Pin ±20% RK27 20mm
RS Stock No. 263-3191
Mfr. Part No.RK11K1140A3L
£1.01
Each
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - Carbon Pin ±20% RK11K 27.5mm
RS Stock No. 154-8178
Mfr. Part No.RK11K1140A3L
£0.99
Each (In a Bag of 5)
Units
- Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Solder ±20% RK11K 27.5mm
RS Stock No. 172-8116
Mfr. Part No.RK1631210AY7
£2.415
Each (In a Box of 2400)
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 249-9294
Mfr. Part No.RK1631210AY7
£5.12
Each
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 172-6396
Mfr. Part No.RSA0N11S9002
£9.397
Each (In a Tray of 40)
Units
10kΩ Slide 1 - Through Hole 0.5W - Linear - - Pin ±20% RSA0N 8.2mm
RS Stock No. 263-3270
Mfr. Part No.RSA0N11S9002
£5.33
Each
Units
10kΩ Slide 1 - Through Hole 0.5W - Linear - - Pin ±20% RSA0N 8.2mm
RS Stock No. 249-9266
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TVG
£1.44
Each
Units
100kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 249-9339
Mfr. Part No.RS60N1219005
£3.99
Each
Units
10kΩ Slide 1 - Solder Lug 0.2W - Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RS60N -
RS Stock No. 172-6412
Mfr. Part No.RS60N1219005
£3.635
Each (In a Tray of 30)
Units
10kΩ Slide 1 - Solder Lug 0.2W - Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RS60N -
RS Stock No. 263-3062
Mfr. Part No.RK09K1130C17
£1.55
Each
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK09K -
RS Stock No. 172-7589
Mfr. Part No.RK09K1130C17
£0.394
Each (In a Box of 1000)
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09K -
RS Stock No. 729-3410
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1140A66
£1.98
Each
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L 12.5mm
RS Stock No. 172-8072
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1140A66
£1.195
Each (In a Tray of 100)
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L 12.5mm
RS Stock No. 172-8078
Mfr. Part No.RK09L114001T
£1.129
Each (In a Tray of 100)
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L 20mm
RS Stock No. 729-3426
Mfr. Part No.RK09L114001T
£1.33
Each
Units
10kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L 20mm
RS Stock No. 172-8149
Mfr. Part No.RK27112A00A6
£9.172
Each (In a Box of 500)
Units
20kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK27 -