What is a potentiometer? A potentiometer is a manually adjustable variable resistor with 3 terminals. Two terminals are connected to both ends of a resistive element, and the third terminal connects to a sliding contact, called a wiper, moving over the resistive element. The position of the wiper determines the output voltage of the potentiometer. The potentiometer essentially functions as a variable voltage divider. The resistive element can be seen as two resistors in series(potentiometer resistance), where the wiper position determines the resistance ratio of the first resistor to the second resistor. A potentiometer is also commonly known as a potmeter or pot. The most common form of potmeter is the single turn rotary potmeter. This type of pot is often used in audio volume control (logarithmic taper) as well as many other applications. Different materials are used to construct potentiometers, including carbon composition, cermet, wirewound, conductive plastic or metal film. Potentiometer definition A potentiometer is a manually adjustable, variable resistor with three terminals. Two terminals are connected to a resistive element, the third terminal is connected to an adjustable wiper. The position of the wiper determines the output voltage. Types of potentiometers A wide variety of potmeters exist. Manually adjustable potmeters can be divided in rotary or linear movement types. The tables below list the available types and their applications. Besides manually adjustable pots, also electronically controlled potentiometers exist, often called digital potmeters. Rotary potentiometers The most common type of potentiometer where the wiper moves along a circular path. Type Description Applications Single-turn pot Single rotation of approximately 270 degrees or 3/4 of a full turn Most common pot, used in applications where a single turn provides enough control resolution. Multi-turn pot Multiple rotations (mostly 5, 10 or 20), for increased precision. They are constructed either with a wiper...
What is a rheostat? A rheostat is a variable resistor which is used to control current. They are able to vary the resistance in a circuit without interruption. The construction is very similar to the construction of a potentiometers. It uses only two connections, even when 3 terminals (as in a potentiometer) are present. The first connection is made to one end of the resistive element and the other connection to the wiper (sliding contact). In contrast to potentiometers, rheostats have to carry a significant current. Therefore they are mostly constructed as wire wound resistors. Resistive wire is wound around an insulating ceramic core and the wiper slides over the windings. Rheostats were often used as power control devices, for example to control light intensity (dimmer), speed of motors, heaters and ovens. Nowadays they are not used for this function anymore. This is because of their relatively low efficiency. In power control applications they are replaced by switching electronics. As a variable resistance they are often used for tuning and calibration in circuits. In these cases they are adjusted only during fabrication or circuit tuning (preset resistor). In such cases trimpots are often used, wired as a rheostat. But dedicated 2 terminal preset resistors also exist. Rheostat definition A rheostat is a variable resistor which is used to control the current flowing in a circuit. Types of rheostats Several types of rheostats exist. The rotary type is the most used in power control applications. Most of the time these rheostats are using an open construction, but enclosed types are also available. Just as with potentiometers, multi-gang types are also available. They are used to control multiple applications in parallel or to increase the power rating or adjusting range. Optionally rheostats can be equipped with a mechanical stop to limit the minimum or maximum resistance. For...