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, 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.

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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. 167-9493
Mfr. Part No.535B1502JC
BrandVishay
TWD759
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 5 1 Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 535 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 460-1944
Mfr. Part No.535B1502JC
BrandVishay
TWD806
Each
units
5 kΩ Linear 5 - Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm - - - Solder Lug ±5% 535 -
RS Stock No. 770-3071
Mfr. Part No.PDB182-GTRB1-504MN
BrandBourns
TWD110
Each
units
500 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.06W 6 mm Audio 9.525mm Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB182-GTRB 19mm
RS Stock No. 161-6773
Mfr. Part No.PDB182-GTRB1-504MN
BrandBourns
TWD46
Each (In a Bag of 100)
units
500 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.06W 6 mm Audio 9.525mm Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB182-GTRB 19mm
RS Stock No. 107-0785
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-103L
BrandBourns
TWD370
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-4646
Mfr. Part No.3310P-001-504L
BrandBourns
TWD95
Each (In a Tube of 50)
units
500 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.25W 3.18 mm Linear 6.35mm Conductive Plastic PC Pin ±20% 3310 12.7mm
RS Stock No. 167-3585
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-103L
BrandBourns
TWD495
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 135-4480
Mfr. Part No.1624202-2
TWD201
Each (In a Box of 100)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 387-846
Mfr. Part No.1624202-2
TWD253
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 691-6917
Mfr. Part No.3310P-001-504L
BrandBourns
TWD73
Each
units
500 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.25W 3.18 mm Linear 6.35mm Conductive Plastic PC Pin ±20% 3310 12.7mm
RS Stock No. 167-9767
Mfr. Part No.357B0103MAB251S22
BrandVishay
TWD910
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
10 kΩ Rotary Continuous 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear 9.525mm Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 357 22
RS Stock No. 460-2048
Mfr. Part No.357B0103MAB251S22
BrandVishay
TWD791
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary Continuous 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear 9.525mm Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 357 22
RS Stock No. 173-580
Mfr. Part No.157S103MB9002
BrandVishay
TWD5,866
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-9505
Mfr. Part No.157S103MB9002
BrandVishay
TWD2,716
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 219-9130
Mfr. Part No.RK27112A00A5
TWD818
Each
units
10 kΩ Logarithmic 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - 9mm - Pin ±20% RK27 -
RS Stock No. 172-7722
Mfr. Part No.RK27112A00A5
TWD538
Each (In a Box of 500)
units
- Logarithmic 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - 9mm - Pin ±20% RK27 -
RS Stock No. 410-356
Mfr. Part No.248FGJSOXB25102MA
BrandVishay
TWD430
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 6.35 mm Linear 9.525mm Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-9564
Mfr. Part No.248FGJSPXB25102MA
BrandVishay
TWD390
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 6.35 mm Linear 9.525mm Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 163-8379
Mfr. Part No.1624146-2
TWD88
Each (In a Box of 200)
units
470 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 167-3599
Mfr. Part No.3540S-1-103L
BrandBourns
TWD881
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear 9.525mm Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3540 20.6mm