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What is a potentiometer ?

A potentiometer is an adjustable electronic component that serves to adjust the voltage or current in a circuit by changing the resistance value. Potentiometers are usually composed of a resistor body made of metal or carbon film and movable brushes. The contact area of the resistor body is changed by rotating or pressing the brushes to change its resistance value.

Potentiometers are commonly used in volume adjustment, brightness adjustment, frequency adjustment and other circuits, is a widely used electronic components.

Table of Contents

What is a potentiometer?

A potentiometer, often referred to as a “pot,” is a type of variable resistor used in electronic circuits. Its name is derived from “potential” and “meter.” The main function of a potentiometer is to regulate the flow of electric current by manually adjusting its resistance.

A typical potentiometer consists of a resistive element, a movable contact (usually a wiper), and three terminals. The resistive element is a track of resistive material, and the wiper makes contact with this track. The three terminals are usually labeled as “1,” “2,” and “3.” Terminals 1 and 3 are connected to the ends of the resistive track, while the wiper is connected to the terminal 2.

By turning the knob or shaft of the potentiometer, the position of the wiper along the resistive track changes, altering the resistance between the wiper (terminal 2) and the other two terminals (1 and 3). This variation in resistance allows for precise control of the voltage or current in a circuit.

Potentiometers are commonly used for tasks such as volume control in audio equipment, brightness control in electronic displays, and tuning in radios. They come in different types and sizes, each suited to specific applications.

How many types of potentiometer are there?

How many types of potentiometer are there?

There are several types of potentiometers, each designed for specific applications and requirements. The main types include:

Linear Potentiometers:

The resistance along the track changes linearly with the rotation of the shaft. These are commonly used in applications where a linear relationship between the knob position and the output is required, such as volume controls.

Logarithmic Potentiometers (Log or Audio Taper):

The resistance changes logarithmically with the rotation of the shaft. These are often used in audio applications, like volume controls for human ears perceive loudness logarithmically.

Multi-Turn Potentiometers:

These pots have multiple turns of the shaft, providing greater precision and control. They are used in applications where fine adjustments are critical.

Single-Turn Potentiometers:

These have a single rotation of the shaft and are suitable for applications where a full range of adjustment can be achieved with one complete turn.

Wirewound Potentiometers:

The resistive element is made of a wire wound around an insulating core. These pots are known for their durability and precision and are often used in applications requiring high power handling.

Cermet Potentiometers:

The resistive element is made of a ceramic and metal mixture. Cermet pots are known for their stability and reliability, especially in terms of temperature variations.

Digital Potentiometers:

Instead of a mechanical knob, these use digital signals to adjust resistance. They are often used in digitally controlled circuits for electronic adjustments.

Motorized Potentiometers:

These pots have a motor-driven mechanism for remote or automated adjustments, often controlled by a feedback system.

What is the function of the potentiometer?

The potentiometer serves the primary function of varying the resistance in an electrical circuit, and this adjustable resistance finds application in several ways.

The main purpose of a potentiometer is to control the voltage in an electrical circuit by varying the resistance. Here are some common uses of potentiometers:

Volume Control: Potentiometers are frequently used in audio devices, such as amplifiers and stereos, to adjust the volume. Turning the potentiometer knob changes the resistance, altering the volume level.

Brightness Control: In electronic devices like televisions and monitors, potentiometers can be used to adjust the brightness of the display.

Variable Voltage Divider: Potentiometers can function as variable voltage dividers in circuits, allowing the user to set a specific voltage level by adjusting the resistance.

Motor Speed Control: Potentiometers are employed in some motor control circuits to regulate the speed of motors by adjusting the voltage supplied to them.

Sensor Calibration: Potentiometers are utilized in sensors and transducers for calibration purposes. They allow users to fine-tune the sensitivity or offset of a sensor.

Tuning in Electronic Circuits: Potentiometers are used in tuning circuits to adjust the frequency or other parameters in radio receivers and other communication devices.

Temperature Control: In some electronic devices, potentiometers can be employed for temperature control by adjusting the resistance in temperature-sensitive circuits.

User Interface Control: Potentiometers are found in user interfaces, such as rotary knobs on electronic devices, where users can interactively adjust settings.

How to choose the right potentiometer?

How to choose the right potentiometer?

Selecting the right potentiometer needs to consider the following aspects:

1, Parameters: you need to choose the right resistance value, maximum operating voltage, maximum operating current and other parameters according to the actual application.

2, The adjustment mode: according to the use of customary selection of rotary or straight slide potentiometer.

3、Linearity:Linearity refers to the proportionality between the output voltage or current of the potentiometer and the input voltage or current. For applications that require precise adjustment, choose a potentiometer with better linearity.

4, Precision: the precision of the potentiometer refers to the accuracy of its output resistance, usually expressed in terms of error. For applications requiring high-precision adjustment, choose a potentiometer with higher precision.

5, life: potentiometer life refers to the time it can work normally. For applications that require long-term use, choose a potentiometer with a longer life.

6, Package form: according to the application to choose the appropriate package form, such as direct insertion, chip type, etc..

List Potentiometer manufacturers

TE Connectivity

Website: https://www.te.com/usa-en/home.html

TE Connectivity is an American Swiss-domiciled technology company that designs and manufactures connectors, sensors, relays, contactors, and application tooling for several industries, such as automotive, industrial equipment, data communication systems, aerospace, defense, medical, oil and gas, consumer electronics and energy.

ALPSALPINE

Website: https://www.alpsalpine.com/e/

Alps Electric Co., Ltd. is a Japanese multinational corporation, headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, producing electronic devices, including switches, potentiometers, sensors, encoders and touchpads.

Panasonic Industrial

Website:https://industrial.panasonic.com/ww

Many products sold by Fortune 500 companies are in fact Powered by Panasonic technology, and they are proud to provide manufacturers with the performance, quality, and reliability that are synonymous with the Panasonic brand.

Prior to becoming a global consumer electronics powerhouse, Panasonic began its existence by developing component and material technologies that still serve as the building blocks for the wide range of advanced products for which our company is best known today, and this development continues.

BOURNS

Website: https://www.bourns.com/

Bourns, Inc. is an American electronics company that develops, manufactures and supplies electronic components for a variety of industries including automotive, industrial, instrumentation, medical electronics, consumer equipment and portable electronics.

VISHAY

Website: https://www.vishay.com/

Vishay Intertechnology, Inc. is an American manufacturer of discrete semiconductors and passive electronic components founded by Polish-born businessman Felix Zandman. Vishay has manufacturing plants in Israel, Asia, Europe, and the Americas where it produces rectifiers, diodes, MOSFETs, optoelectronics, selected integrated circuits, resistors, capacitors, and inductors.

TT Electronics

Website: https://www.ttelectronics.com/

TT Electronics Plc is a global manufacturer of electronic components and provider of manufacturing services, headquartered in Woking, England. TT Electronics is a global provider of design-led, advanced electronics technologies for performance critical applications in specialised markets

FAQ

A potentiometer, often abbreviated as "pot," is a three-terminal resistor with a sliding or rotating contact that forms an adjustable voltage divider. It is commonly used in electrical and electronic circuits to control the voltage, current, or signal level.

A potentiometer works by adjusting the position of its sliding or rotating contact along a resistive element. This resistive element is typically made of a material with a uniform resistance per unit length. As the contact moves, it changes the resistance between its terminals. By connecting the terminals of the potentiometer to a circuit, it effectively divides the voltage or current applied across it, allowing precise control over the output.

When selecting a potentiometer, consider factors such as the required resistance range, power rating, physical size, mounting type, and whether linear or logarithmic taper is needed based on the application. It's also essential to ensure compatibility with the circuit's voltage and current requirements.

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