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. 173-0725
BrandRS PRO
£1.167
Each (In a Box of 50)
Units
100Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7024
BrandRS PRO
£4.02
Each
Units
5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7078
BrandRS PRO
£3.68
Each
Units
100Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0719
BrandRS PRO
£1.108
Each (In a Box of 50)
Units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7068
BrandRS PRO
£3.83
Each
Units
25Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0732
BrandRS PRO
£1.167
Each (In a Box of 50)
Units
25Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0723
BrandRS PRO
£1.167
Each (In a Box of 50)
Units
250Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0752
BrandRS PRO
£3.476
Each (In a Box of 50)
Units
5kΩ Rotary - - Panel Mount 2W 8 mm - - Conductive Plastic Solder ±20% NP32HS -
RS Stock No. 842-7169
BrandRS PRO
£9.30
Each
Units
5kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 8 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder ±20% NP32HS -
RS Stock No. 842-7084
BrandRS PRO
£3.83
Each
Units
250Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 170-5317
BrandRS PRO
£22.46
Each (In a Box of 100)
Units
2.5kΩ Linear 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 812-831
BrandRS PRO
£35.47
Each
Units
2.5kΩ Rotary 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 842-7074
BrandRS PRO
£4.02
Each
Units
50Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0733
BrandRS PRO
£1.167
Each (In a Box of 50)
Units
50Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7071
BrandRS PRO
£4.02
Each
Units
50Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0721
BrandRS PRO
£1.167
Each (In a Box of 50)
Units
50Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7030
BrandRS PRO
£4.02
Each
Units
1kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0714
BrandRS PRO
£1.108
Each (In a Box of 50)
Units
1kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 170-5321
BrandRS PRO
£22.46
Each (In a Box of 100)
Units
50kΩ Linear 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 812-881
BrandRS PRO
£35.47
Each
Units
50kΩ Rotary 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
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