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. 317-780
BrandRS PRO
$82.95
Each
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount - 3 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Wire Lead ±20% LM10 -
RS Stock No. 842-7131
BrandRS PRO
$17.93
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% NHP22 20.5mm
RS Stock No. 173-0747
BrandRS PRO
$7.891
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1kΩ - 10 - Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% NHP22 20.5mm
RS Stock No. 170-5319
BrandRS PRO
$77.697
Each (In a Box of 100)
units
10kΩ Linear 1 4 Surface Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 842-7217
BrandRS PRO
$326.38
Each
units
10kΩ Linear - 1 Spring Return - - Linear - Conductive Plastic - ±20% WT22 -
RS Stock No. 173-0781
BrandRS PRO
$346.766
Each (In a Box of 5)
units
10kΩ Linear - - Spring Return - - Linear - Conductive Plastic - ±20% WT22 -
RS Stock No. 812-853
BrandRS PRO
$103.37
Each
units
10kΩ Rotary 1 4 Surface Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 173-0772
BrandRS PRO
$208.10
Each (In a Box of 5)
units
10kΩ Linear - - - - 4 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Tab ±30% 149618 28mm
RS Stock No. 842-7188
BrandRS PRO
$167.18
Each
units
10kΩ Linear - 1 - - 4 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Tab ±30% 149618 28mm
RS Stock No. 173-0720
BrandRS PRO
$3.748
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7037
BrandRS PRO
$8.49
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7181
BrandRS PRO
$208.95
Each
units
10kΩ Linear - 1 - - 4 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Tab ±30% 149618 28mm
RS Stock No. 173-0773
BrandRS PRO
$226.644
Each (In a Box of 5)
units
10kΩ Linear - - - - 4 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Tab ±30% 149618 28mm
RS Stock No. 812-819
BrandRS PRO
$74.87
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 170-5314
BrandRS PRO
$77.697
Each (In a Box of 100)
units
1kΩ Linear 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 812-847
BrandRS PRO
$103.37
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 170-5318
BrandRS PRO
$77.697
Each (In a Box of 100)
units
5kΩ Linear 1 4 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±10% CLR4000 -
RS Stock No. 173-0727
BrandRS PRO
$3.946
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
500Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7043
BrandRS PRO
$8.33
Each
units
500Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0751
BrandRS PRO
$11.244
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
5kΩ Rotary - - - 0.5W 5 mm - - Conductive Plastic Solder ±20% NP24HS -
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Bourns 91 Series are single turn, rotary linear ...
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Bourns 91 Series are single turn, rotary linear potentiometers Features and Benefits:Available in various pin-out configurations One piece shaft and rotor assembly Panel and PCB mountable Conductive plastic resistance element Linear and audio (log) output track options Long mechanical life ...
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