Potentiometer

Welcome to the Potentiometer!

Fundamentals

The potentiometer, commonly referred to as a potmeter or pot, is a three-terminal mechanically operated rotary analogue device which can be found and used in a large variety of electrical and electronic circuits. They are passive devices, meaning they do not require a power supply or additional circuitry in order to perform their basic linear or rotary position function.


Today, potentiometers are much smaller and much more accurate than those early large and bulky variable resistances, and as with most electronic components, there are many different types and names ranging from variable resistor, preset, trimmer, rheostat and of course variable potentiometer. If only two terminals are used, one end and the wiper, it acts as a variable resistor or rheostat.

Types

Variable potentiometers are available in a variety of different mechanical variations allowing for easy adjustment to control a voltage, current, or the biasing and gain control of a circuit to obtain a zero condition. And manually adjustable potmeters can be divided in rotary or linear movement types. The most common potentiometers are rotary potentiometers, linear potentiometers, digital potentiometers, slider potentiometer, rheostat, preset or trimmer potentiometers.

Applications

Potentiometers are commonly used to control electrical devices such as volume controls on audio equipment and adjust the level of analog signals (for example volume controls on audio equipment), or as control inputs for electronic circuits. They are rarely used to directly control significant amounts of power (more than a watt or so). So that it is hard to list all of their functions here.

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