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, its 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. 168-370
Mfr. Part No.27ESA503MMF50N
kr 46,96
Each
Units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 27 50mm
RS Stock No. 173-5505
Mfr. Part No.27ESA503MMF50N
kr 31,95
Each (In a Box of 500)
Units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - - Solder Lug ±20% 23 -
RS Stock No. 745-6772
Mfr. Part No.23ESB102MMF50NF
kr 58,32
Each
Units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.2W 6.35 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 161-5115
Mfr. Part No.23ESB102MMF50NF
kr 35,565
Each (In a Box of 200)
Units
1 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.2W 6.35 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 164-3561
Mfr. Part No.23ESB222MMF50NF
kr 37,969
Each (In a Box of 200)
Units
2.2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.2W 6.35 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 745-6784
Mfr. Part No.23ESB222MMF50NF
kr 61,81
Each
Units
2.2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.2W 6.35 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 135-4432
Mfr. Part No.1623760-2
kr 29,312
Each (In a Box of 200)
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 168-140
Mfr. Part No.1623760-2
kr 41,87
Each
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 387-802
Mfr. Part No.1624156-2
kr 58,42
Each
Units
22 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.2W 6.35 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 164-9341
Mfr. Part No.1624156-2
kr 44,456
Each (In a Box of 200)
Units
22 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.2W 6.35 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 135-5049
Mfr. Part No.TW1103KA
kr 68,492
Each (In a Box of 500)
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 163-8380
Mfr. Part No.1624154-2
kr 21,308
Each (In a Box of 200)
Units
1 MΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.2W 6.35 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 502-8637
Mfr. Part No.TW1103KA
kr 123,93
Each
Units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±10% TW 15mm
RS Stock No. 168-128
Mfr. Part No.1624154-2
kr 39,68
Each
Units
1 MΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.2W 6.35 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 135-4476
Mfr. Part No.1624127-2
kr 26,674
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. 135-4477
Mfr. Part No.1624139-2
kr 26,869
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. 162-798
Mfr. Part No.404802692034
kr 232,60
Each
Units
470 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% M 25.4mm
RS Stock No. 163-8383
Mfr. Part No.27ESA104MMF50N
kr 37,519
Each (In a Box of 100)
Units
100 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 27 50mm
RS Stock No. 387-723
Mfr. Part No.1624127-2
kr 47,76
Each
Units
2.2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.4W 6.35 mm Linear - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% 23 50mm
RS Stock No. 161-5162
Mfr. Part No.17PCSA474MC19P
kr 58,917
Each (In a Box of 100)
Units
470 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.25W 6 mm Linear - Carbon Pin ±20% 17P 19mm