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. 167-8774
Mfr. Part No.P16NP103MAB15
BrandVishay
$22.017
Each (In a Box of 20)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 249-9418
Mfr. Part No.RS6011Y1401A
$7.92
Each
units
50 kΩ Slide 1 - Through Hole 0.2W - Linear - - Pin ±20% RS60 -
RS Stock No. 167-9504
Mfr. Part No.534B1104JL
BrandVishay
$51.294
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
100 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 460-7605
Mfr. Part No.534B1104JL
BrandVishay
$66.06
Each
units
100 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 172-8114
Mfr. Part No.RS6011Y1401A
$3.614
Each (In a Tray of 90)
units
50 kΩ Slide 1 - Through Hole 0.2W - Linear - - Pin ±20% RS60 -
RS Stock No. 107-0785
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-103L
BrandBourns
$23.76
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 168-437
Mfr. Part No.1624203-2
$13.00
Each
units
100 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 161-4615
Mfr. Part No.1624203-2
$8.182
Each (In a Bag of 100)
units
100 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 167-3598
Mfr. Part No.3540S-1-102L
BrandBourns
$27.669
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3540 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 522-2968
Mfr. Part No.3540S-1-102L
BrandBourns
$45.21
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3540 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 166-9921
Mfr. Part No.PTD901-2015K-B103
BrandBourns
$1.732
Each (In a Bag of 162)
units
10 kΩ Rotary - 1 - 0.05W 6 mm Linear - Carbon PC Pin ±25% PTD90 15mm
RS Stock No. 502-8609
Mfr. Part No.TW1102KA
$19.42
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 162-833
Mfr. Part No.404802696038
$42.83
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% M 25.4mm
RS Stock No. 135-5046
Mfr. Part No.TW1102KA
$10.388
Each (In a Box of 500)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 249-9294
Mfr. Part No.RK1631210AY7
$10.61
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 172-8116
Mfr. Part No.RK1631210AY7
$3.492
Each (In a Box of 2400)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 827-5035
Mfr. Part No.PTD901-2015K-B103
BrandBourns
$2.97
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary - 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - Carbon PC Pin ±20% PTD90 15mm
RS Stock No. 468-8682
Mfr. Part No.05.061.3470
BrandRadiohm
$7.13
Each
units
470 Ω Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% POTM 50mm
RS Stock No. 167-4683
Mfr. Part No.PDB241-GTR01-504A2
BrandBourns
$3.80
Each (In a Bag of 100)
units
500 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.25W 6 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB241-GTR 19mm
RS Stock No. 692-8639
Mfr. Part No.PDB241-GTR01-504A2
BrandBourns
$7.44
Each
units
500 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.25W 6 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB241-GTR 19mm