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. You can learn more in our complete guide to potentiometers.

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. 317-780
BrandRS PRO
MYR333.95
Each
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount - 3 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Wire Lead ±20% LM10 -
RS Stock No. 173-0747
BrandRS PRO
MYR48.019
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1kΩ - 10 - Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% NHP22 20.5mm
RS Stock No. 842-7131
BrandRS PRO
MYR55.44
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% NHP22 20.5mm
RS Stock No. 842-7002
BrandRS PRO
MYR35.53
Each
units
10kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0727
BrandRS PRO
MYR12.006
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
500Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7030
BrandRS PRO
MYR32.81
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7080
BrandRS PRO
MYR32.17
Each
units
250Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0767
BrandRS PRO
MYR265.084
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1kΩ - 1 - Servo Mount 3W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% 50WW 21.5mm
RS Stock No. 842-7087
BrandRS PRO
MYR35.45
Each
units
100Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7153
BrandRS PRO
MYR298.09
Each
units
1kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 3W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% 50WW 21.5mm
RS Stock No. 173-0735
BrandRS PRO
MYR15.279
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
100Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0731
BrandRS PRO
MYR15.279
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
10Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7021
BrandRS PRO
MYR35.45
Each
units
5kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7034
BrandRS PRO
MYR33.77
Each
units
500Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 1W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0715
BrandRS PRO
MYR14.515
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
500Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0717
BrandRS PRO
MYR14.515
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
5kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 842-7090
BrandRS PRO
MYR120.85
Each
units
10kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 3W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder ±10% P40 68mm
RS Stock No. 173-0743
BrandRS PRO
MYR25.974
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
2kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 0.5W 3.17 mm - - Conductive Plastic Solder ±20% P12 19mm
RS Stock No. 173-0714
BrandRS PRO
MYR14.515
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
1kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6.35 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm
RS Stock No. 173-0734
BrandRS PRO
MYR15.279
Each (In a Box of 50)
units
250Ω - 1 - Panel Mount 1W 6 mm - - Wirewound Solder ±10% P25 25mm