1M Potentiometer

Pile of Potentiometers

Potentiometers, often referred to as “pots”, and are considered to be a passive electronic component. They are, in fact, a type of resistor. To be more precise, they are really a three terminal variable resistor. Unlike a fixed resistor, that has a predetermined resistance, the potentiometer gives the user the ability to adjust the given resistance from essentially zero ohms (the measure of resistance) to a specified maximum value.

There are two different configurations of potentiometers that are used to adjust the resistance value. The most common of the two is the dial or rotary type potentiometer. The other, less commonly used, is the slide potentiometer. The dial type can be rotated 360 degrees. Both the slide and dial type are often used in audio receivers to vary the sound output.

Trimmer potentiometers or trim-pots, as they are commonly called, can be found in either the dial or slide configuration. These trimmers, as they are also frequently referred to, are used for infrequently adjusted calibration voltages. One of the common usages is in instrumentation where you make a voltage setting one time and leave it.

Potentiometers are rarely used to control significant power, but are used to adjust the level of analog signals. One application potentiometers are often used for is the dimmer switch on lights. Another is for the volume control in consumer electronics applications. As mentioned earlier, the potentiometer is not meant to handle a significant amount of power, that function is reserved for the rheostat, but that is a subject for another Hub Page.