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. 850-9801
Mfr. Part No.534-1-1-202
BrandVishay
MYR104.75
Each
units
2 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Bushing Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±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. 161-6775
Mfr. Part No.PDB241-GTR02-254A2
BrandBourns
MYR10.374
Each (In a Bag of 100)
units
250 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 0.25W 6.35 mm Audio - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB241-GTR 19mm
RS Stock No. 167-5483
Mfr. Part No.PDB181-GTR01-504A2
BrandBourns
MYR6.34
Each (In a Bag of 100)
units
500 kΩ Rotary - 1 Panel Mount 0.1W 6 mm Logarithmic - Carbon Solder Lug ±20% PDB181-GTR 19mm
RS Stock No. 167-9569
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR94.164
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 167-9485
Mfr. Part No.534B1101JL
BrandVishay
MYR86.753
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
100 Ω Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 162-782
Mfr. Part No.404802692046
MYR108.01
Each
units
220 Ω Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount 2W 6.35 mm Linear - Cermet Pin ±10% M 25.4mm
RS Stock No. 850-9401
Mfr. Part No.830-11251
BrandVishay
MYR1,686.032
Each (In a Pack of 5)
units
200 Ω Rotary 3 1 Bushing Mount 3W 6.35 mm - - - Solder Lug ±3% 830 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 410-384
Mfr. Part No.248FGJS0XB25103MA
BrandVishay
MYR68.59
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Pin ±20% 248 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 263-3270
Mfr. Part No.RSA0N11S9002
MYR36.68
Each
units
10 kΩ Slide 1 - Through Hole 0.5W - Linear - - Pin ±20% RSA0N -
RS Stock No. 172-7656
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TV6
MYR7.156
Each (In a Box of 1000)
units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 167-9571
Mfr. Part No.534B1202JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR96.044
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
2 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 486-7150
Mfr. Part No.534B1502JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR106.97
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 249-9250
Mfr. Part No.RK1631110TV6
MYR14.51
Each
units
50 kΩ Rotary 1 - Panel Mount, Through Hole 0.1W 6 mm Linear - - Pin ±20% RK163 -
RS Stock No. 167-9481
Mfr. Part No.157S202MB9002
BrandVishay
MYR363.531
Each (In a Box of 10)
units
2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 486-7093
Mfr. Part No.534B1103JC8872
BrandVishay
MYR124.32
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 10 1 Panel Mount 2W 6 mm Linear - Wirewound Solder Lug ±5% 534 20.6mm
RS Stock No. 172-6396
Mfr. Part No.RSA0N11S9002
MYR65.901
Each (In a Tray of 40)
units
10 kΩ Slide 1 - Through Hole 0.5W - Linear - - Pin ±20% RSA0N -
RS Stock No. 173-568
Mfr. Part No.157S202MB9002
BrandVishay
MYR370.94
Each
units
2 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Servo Mount 1W 3.18 mm Linear - Conductive Plastic Turret ±20% 157 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 850-9849
Mfr. Part No.535-1-1-502
BrandVishay
MYR111.73
Each
units
5 kΩ Rotary 5 1 Bushing Mount 1.5W 6.35 mm Linear - Wirewound Turret ±5% 535 22.2mm
RS Stock No. 729-3408
Mfr. Part No.RK09L1120A69
MYR5.87
Each
units
10 kΩ Rotary 1 1 Through Hole 0.05W 6 mm Logarithmic - - Pin ±20% RK09L 20mm