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.

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. 893-7329
Mfr. Part No.SP2-50
$423.58
Each
units
10 kΩ Linear - - Bracket Mount 2W 4.19 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Cable ±10% SP2 12.7mm
RS Stock No. 249-9323
Mfr. Part No.RS60N1119006
$7.41
Each
units
10 kΩ Slide - - Solder Lug 0.1W - Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RS60N -
RS Stock No. 168-358
Mfr. Part No.27ESA502MMF50N
$10.60
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 27 50mm
RS Stock No. 484-8547
Mfr. Part No.14910F0GJSX10102KA
BrandVishay
$22.03
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% 149 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-9632
Mfr. Part No.14910F0GJSX10102KA
BrandVishay
$22.03
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% 149 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 170-9497
Mfr. Part No.91A1A-B24-B20L
BrandBourns
$8.19
Each (In a Tray of 45)
units
100 kΩ Linear 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 1W 6.35 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% 91 -
RS Stock No. 172-6407
Mfr. Part No.RS60N1119006
$6.714
Each (In a Tray of 30)
units
10 kΩ Slide - - Solder Lug 0.1W - Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RS60N -
RS Stock No. 163-8384
Mfr. Part No.27ESA502MMF50N
$6.562
Each (In a Box of 100)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 27 50mm
RS Stock No. 502-8542
Mfr. Part No.TW1250KA
$13.86
Each
units
25 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 729-3640
Mfr. Part No.RK09D1130C2P
$1.72
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09D 25mm
RS Stock No. 831-8788
Mfr. Part No.53C3250
BrandHoneywell
$25.48
Each
units
250 Ω Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 53C 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-3589
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-104L
BrandBourns
$21.091
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
100 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 842-7043
BrandRS PRO
$9.36
Each
units
500 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 162-748
Mfr. Part No.404802692043
$35.22
Each
units
10 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% M 25.4mm
RS Stock No. 167-0124
Mfr. Part No.6657S-1-103
BrandBourns
$40.999
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
10 kΩ Rotary Continuous 1 Bushing Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Turret ±10% 6657 12.7mm
RS Stock No. 522-5254
Mfr. Part No.93R1A-R22-A05L
BrandBourns
$14.21
Each
units
100 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 2W 6 mm Linear - Cermet PC Pin ±10% 93 22mm
RS Stock No. 249-9389
Mfr. Part No.RS6011Y1401G
$10.15
Each
units
10 kΩ Slide - - Through Hole 0.1W - Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RS60 -
RS Stock No. 790-4473
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FL223KLB
BrandVishay
$61.96
Each
units
22 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1.5W 6 mm Logarithmic - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 25mm
RS Stock No. 163-9732
Mfr. Part No.TW1250KA
$13.776
Each (In a Box of 500)
units
25 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 172-6335
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1140A5P
$1.80
Each (In a Tray of 100)
units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L -