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. 167-9493
Mfr. Part No.535B1502JC
BrandVishay
TWD787.20
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
TWD901.00
Each
units
5 kΩ Linear 5 - Panel Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm - - - Solder Lug ±5% 535 -
RS Stock No. 460-2048
Mfr. Part No.357B0103MAB251S22
BrandVishay
TWD1,264.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary Continuous 1 Panel Mount 1W 22 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 357 6.35mm
RS Stock No. 167-9767
Mfr. Part No.357B0103MAB251S22
BrandVishay
TWD1,011.00
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
10 kΩ Rotary Continuous 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 357 22
RS Stock No. 173-580
Mfr. Part No.157S103MB9002
BrandVishay
TWD3,000.00
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
TWD2,143.80
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. 410-356
Mfr. Part No.248FGJS0XB25102MA
BrandVishay
TWD462.00
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-9564
Mfr. Part No.248FGJS0XB25102MA
BrandVishay
TWD249.90
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 460-7526
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JL
BrandVishay
TWD906.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-8751
Mfr. Part No.P16NP472MAB15
BrandVishay
TWD497.40
Each (In a Box of 20)
units
4.7 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 790-4435
Mfr. Part No.P16NP472MAB15
BrandVishay
TWD497.00
Each
units
4.7 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 167-9487
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JL
BrandVishay
TWD860.80
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 850-9794
Mfr. Part No.534-1-1-103
BrandVishay
TWD512.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 850-9779
Mfr. Part No.533-1-1-102
BrandVishay
TWD889.00
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 3 1 Bushing Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 533 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 162-2384
Mfr. Part No.157B103MX9001
BrandVishay
TWD839.30
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-9569
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JC8872
BrandVishay
TWD418.90
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 173-574
Mfr. Part No.157S502MB9002
BrandVishay
TWD3,186.00
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 167-9482
Mfr. Part No.157S502MB9002
BrandVishay
TWD2,232.90
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 486-7093
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JC8872
BrandVishay
TWD489.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 173-760
Mfr. Part No.157B103MX9001
BrandVishay
TWD1,014.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm