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. 729-3656
Mfr. Part No.RK09D1130C3W
MYR3.50
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK09D 20mm
RS Stock No. 729-3417
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1140A5E
MYR6.25
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK09L 12.5mm
RS Stock No. 172-7666
Mfr. Part No.RK09712200HA
MYR12.73
Each (In a Tray of 80)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK097 -
RS Stock No. 729-3505
Mfr. Part No.RK09712200HA
MYR14.18
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 2 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - - - Pin ±20% RK097 20mm
RS Stock No. 249-9159
Mfr. Part No.RK09712200JB
MYR16.48
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK097 -
RS Stock No. 172-8106
Mfr. Part No.RK09712200JB
MYR8.746
Each (In a Tray of 80)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK097 -
RS Stock No. 850-9785
Mfr. Part No.533-1-1-502
BrandVishay
MYR90.50
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 3 1 Bushing Mount 1W 6.34 mm, 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 533 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 317-780
BrandRS PRO
MYR182.90
Each
units
5 kΩ - 1 - Panel Mount - 3 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Wire Lead ±20% LM10 -
RS Stock No. 850-9801
Mfr. Part No.534-1-1-202
BrandVishay
MYR103.16
Each
units
2 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 522-5305
Mfr. Part No.93R1A-R22-A15L
BrandBourns
MYR27.56
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 2W 6 mm Linear - Cermet PC Pin ±10% 93 22mm
RS Stock No. 729-3511
Mfr. Part No.RK0971111Z0P
MYR16.00
Each
units
20 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm - - - Pin ±20% RK097 15mm
RS Stock No. 107-0763
Mfr. Part No.3590S-2-202L
BrandBourns
MYR62.84
Each
units
2 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 3590 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 486-7087
Mfr. Part No.534B1102JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR80.41
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-3604
Mfr. Part No.93R1A-R22-A15L
BrandBourns
MYR18.89
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. 167-9568
Mfr. Part No.534B1102JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR69.817
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 172-8116
Mfr. Part No.RK1631210AY7
MYR12.254
Each (In a Box of 2400)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 850-9791
Mfr. Part No.534-1-1-102
BrandVishay
MYR107.61
Each
units
1 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 172-8088
Mfr. Part No.RK0971110700
MYR6.882
Each (In a Tray of 80)
units
100 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK097 -
RS Stock No. 249-9143
Mfr. Part No.RK0971110700
MYR14.31
Each
units
100 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK097 -
RS Stock No. 172-7674
Mfr. Part No.RK0971111Z0P
MYR15.482
Each (In a Tray of 70)
units
20 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK097 -