What is resistor noise? Noise is an unwanted phenomenon for resistors. For some applications the noise properties are important. Examples are high gain amplifiers, charge amplifiers and low-level signals. Resistor noise is often specified as microvolts noise per volt of applied voltage, for a 1 MHz bandwidth. Thermal noise is the predominant source of noise for resistors.  It is dependent on three variables: resistance, temperature and bandwidth. The relation between these three parameters is describes by the formula: Where E is the RMS noise signal in volts, R is the resistance in ohms, k is Boltzmann’s constant, T is the temperature in Kelvin and dF is the bandwidth in Hz. The equation shows that the noise level can be decreased by reducing the resistance, the temperature or the bandwidth. Knowing Boltzmann’s constant, the formula is simplified to: Where E is now the noise voltage in nanovolts, R in kΩ, and dF in kHz. Thermal and current noise There are two types of noise: the thermal noise and the current noise. To understand their principle, they will be discussed in more detail. In all materials, the electrons permanently move. As temperature increases, the movements increase. The vibrations of the electrons cause an electric signal (AC) across the terminals of the component. Because the vibrations are completely random, the electrical signal is noise. This is called thermal noise or Johnson noise. It is the main contributor to noise for resistors. Thermal noise is constant over a wide frequency range. Current noise however, declines when frequency is increased. The thermal noise increases with a larger resistance value, while the current noise decreases. Noise standards The way to measure resistor current noise is defined in norm IEC 60195. This makes the comparison of different manufacturers possible. The current noise of a resistor is described [… read more]

What is a variable resistor? A variable resistor is a resistor of which the electric resistance value can be adjusted. A variable resistor is in essence an electro-mechanical transducer and normally works by sliding a contact (wiper) over a resistive element. When a variable resistor is used as a potential divider by using 3 terminals it is called a potentiometer. When only two terminals are used, it functions as a variable resistance and is called a rheostat. Electronically controlled variable resistors exist, which can be controlled electronically instead of by mechanical action. These resistors are called digital potentiometers. Variable resistor definition A resistor of which the ohmic resistance value can be adjusted. Either mechanically (potentiometer, rheostat) or electronically (digital potentiometer). Types of variable resistors Potentiometer The potentiometer is the most common variable resistor. It functions as a potential divider and is used to generate a voltage signal depending on the position of the potentiometer. This signal can be used for a very wide variety of applications including: Amplifier gain control(audio volume), measurement of distance or angles, tuning of circuits and much more. When variable resistors are used to tune or calibrate a circuit or application, trimmer potentiometers or trimpots are used, this are mostly small potentiometers mounted on the circuit board, which can be adjusted using a screwdriver. Rheostat Rheostats are very similar in construction to potentiometers, but are not used as a potential divider, but as a variable resistance. They use only 2 terminals instead of the 3 terminals potentiometers use. One connection is made at one end of the resistive element, the other at the wiper of the variable resistor. In the past rheostats were  used as power control devices in series with the load, such as a light bulb. Nowadays rheostats are not used as power control anymore [… read more]