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. 135-4477
Mfr. Part No.1624139-2
TWD106.90
Each (In a Box of 200)
units
4.7 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
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. 161-6895
Mfr. Part No.91A1D-C24-A15L
BrandBourns
TWD176.00
Each (In a Tray of 45)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet PC Pin ±10% 91 19mm
RS Stock No. 790-4426
Mfr. Part No.P16NP222MAB15
BrandVishay
TWD523.00
Each
units
2.2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 8.8mm
RS Stock No. 602-3699
Mfr. Part No.JC10-000-502N
TWD450.00
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 - Through Hole 1/8W 3 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% - -
RS Stock No. 770-3080
Mfr. Part No.PDB241-GTR03-504A2
BrandBourns
TWD129.00
Each
units
500 kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 0.25W 6 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB241-GTR 27.5mm
RS Stock No. 790-4473
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FL223KLB
BrandVishay
TWD1,139.00
Each
units
22 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1.5W 6 mm Logarithmic - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 25mm
RS Stock No. 167-9738
Mfr. Part No.14920F0GJSX13502KA
BrandVishay
TWD522.50
Each (In a Box of 60)
units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount, Through Hole 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% 149 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 691-7658
Mfr. Part No.3386V-1-103LF
BrandBourns
TWD55.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Trimmer 1 1 Through Hole 0.5W - Linear - Cermet PC Pin ±10% 3386 -
RS Stock No. 691-7721
Mfr. Part No.PCW1J-B24-KAB103L
BrandBourns
TWD172.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.75W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic PC Pin ±20% PC 19mm
RS Stock No. 522-3028
Mfr. Part No.3540S-1-502L
BrandBourns
TWD812.00
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3540 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 135-4476
Mfr. Part No.1624127-2
TWD123.60
Each (In a Box of 200)
units
2.2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 172-8072
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1140A66
TWD39.60
Each (In a Tray of 100)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09L -
RS Stock No. 850-9448
Mfr. Part No.860-1-1-502
BrandVishay
TWD3,604.00
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 8W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±3% 860 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-3604
Mfr. Part No.93R1A-R22-A15L
BrandBourns
TWD150.70
Each (In a Tray of 45)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 2W 6 mm Linear - Cermet PC Pin ±10% 93 22mm
RS Stock No. 729-3521
Mfr. Part No.RK0971221Z05
TWD136.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - - - Pin ±20% RK097 15mm
RS Stock No. 167-8703
Mfr. Part No.PE30L0FL223KLB
BrandVishay
TWD743.00
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
22 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1.5W 6 mm Logarithmic - Cermet Solder Lug ±10% PE30 25mm
RS Stock No. 522-5305
Mfr. Part No.93R1A-R22-A15L
BrandBourns
TWD188.00
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 2W 6 mm Linear - Cermet PC Pin ±10% 93 22mm
RS Stock No. 790-4173
Mfr. Part No.P16NM222MAB15
BrandVishay
TWD850.00
Each
units
2.2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 16 mm Linear - Cermet Solder Lug ±20% P16 9.4mm
RS Stock No. 410-491
Mfr. Part No.248BBHS0XB25502MA
BrandVishay
TWD604.00
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 19.1mm