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. 172-8072
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1140A66
$2.117
Each (In a Tray of 100)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L 12.5mm
RS Stock No. 729-3410
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1140A66
$2.56
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L 12.5mm
RS Stock No. 167-9489
Mfr. Part No.533B1103JL
BrandVishay
$23.43
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 3 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 533 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 460-1893
Mfr. Part No.533B1103JL
BrandVishay
$54.59
Each
units
10 kΩ Linear 3 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - - Solder Lug ±5% 533 -
RS Stock No. 729-3426
Mfr. Part No.RK09L114001T
$3.39
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L 20mm
RS Stock No. 172-8078
Mfr. Part No.RK09L114001T
$1.907
Each (In a Tray of 100)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L 20mm
RS Stock No. 173-0781
BrandRS PRO
$254.174
Each (In a Box of 5)
units
10 kΩ Linear - - Spring Return - 22 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic - ±20% WT22 -
RS Stock No. 842-7217
BrandRS PRO
$289.12
Each
units
10 kΩ Linear - 1 Spring Return - - Linear - Conductive Plastic - ±20% WT22 -
RS Stock No. 842-7188
BrandRS PRO
$161.29
Each
units
10 kΩ Linear - 1 - - 4 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Tab ±30% 149618 28mm
RS Stock No. 850-9794
Mfr. Part No.534-1-1-103
BrandVishay
$33.39
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 173-0772
BrandRS PRO
$134.99
Each (In a Box of 5)
units
10 kΩ Linear - - - - 4 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Tab ±30% 149618 28mm
RS Stock No. 173-0720
BrandRS PRO
$2.39
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1 kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 167-3584
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-502L
BrandBourns
$21.19
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 850-9817
Mfr. Part No.534-1-1-502
BrandVishay
$33.39
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 107-0779
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-502L
BrandBourns
$48.12
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 842-7037
BrandRS PRO
$9.36
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 387-745
Mfr. Part No.1623757-2
$10.80
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 167-9490
Mfr. Part No.533B1502JL
BrandVishay
$37.63
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 3 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 533 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-0101
Mfr. Part No.PTV09A-4225F-B103
BrandBourns
$0.81
Each (In a Tray of 100)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.05W 6 mm Linear - Carbon PC Pin ±20% PTV09 25mm
RS Stock No. 167-9492
Mfr. Part No.535B1103JC
BrandVishay
$29.614
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 5 1 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 535 22.2mm