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?

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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. 167-8748
Mfr. Part No.P16NP474MAB15
BrandVishay
TWD466.50
Each (In a Box of 20)
units
470 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.26W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 172-6335
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1140A5P
TWD39.60
Each (In a Tray of 100)
units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L -
RS Stock No. 167-5485
Mfr. Part No.PDB241-GTR03-504A2
BrandBourns
TWD80.20
Each (In a Bag of 100)
units
500 kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 0.25W 6 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB241-GTR 27.5mm
RS Stock No. 167-4683
Mfr. Part No.PDB241-GTR01-504A2
BrandBourns
TWD86.80
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. 770-3068
Mfr. Part No.PDB181-GTR01-504A2
BrandBourns
TWD73.00
Each
units
500 kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 0.1W 6 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB181-GTR 19mm
RS Stock No. 167-9560
Mfr. Part No.248BBHS0XB25102MA
BrandVishay
TWD356.60
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 19.1mm
RS Stock No. 107-0791
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-203L
BrandBourns
TWD423.00
Each
units
20 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 475-6050
Mfr. Part No.M-22E10-050 5K
TWD591.00
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 - Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±5% - -
RS Stock No. 850-9609
Mfr. Part No.157-11103
BrandVishay
TWD623.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary - 1 Bushing Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 410-479
Mfr. Part No.248BBHS0XB25102MA
BrandVishay
TWD638.00
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 19.1mm
RS Stock No. 831-0487
Mfr. Part No.380C310K
BrandHoneywell
TWD747.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Solder Lug ±10% 380 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 851-7367
Mfr. Part No.84A1A-B28-J13L
BrandBourns
TWD850.00
Each (In a Pack of 270)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 84 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 729-3688
Mfr. Part No.RK12L12C0A0E
TWD36.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Through Hole - 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK12L 25mm
RS Stock No. 387-739
Mfr. Part No.1624139-2
TWD149.00
Each
units
4.7 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 790-4429
Mfr. Part No.P16NP474MAB15
BrandVishay
TWD492.00
Each
units
470 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.26W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 167-9548
Mfr. Part No.P9A2R100FISX1103ML
BrandVishay
TWD548.40
Each (In a Box of 25)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.025W 6 mm Logarithmic - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% P9A 20mm
RS Stock No. 504-2734
Mfr. Part No.P9A2R100FISX1103ML
BrandVishay
TWD711.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.025W 6 mm Logarithmic - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% P9A 20mm
RS Stock No. 167-3587
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-203L
BrandBourns
TWD366.30
Each (In a Tray of 25)
units
20 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 692-8639
Mfr. Part No.PDB241-GTR01-504A2
BrandBourns
TWD127.00
Each
units
500 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.25W 6 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB241-GTR 19mm
RS Stock No. 317-780
BrandRS PRO
TWD1,255.00
Each
units
5 kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount - 3 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Wire Lead ±20% LM10 -