What Is a Potentiometer?

A potentiometer, otherwise known as a pot or a potmeter, is a 3-terminal resistor with rotating or gliding contact that allows the device to act as an adjustable voltage divider. A potentiometer acts as a variable resistor if only two terminals, one end, and the wiper are used. In such iterations, electric flow can be controlled though manual adjustments of the resistance. In this piece, we will provide a brief overview of the potentiometer and common types.

Generally, a potentiometer is considered a passive electronic component. Potentiometers function by changing the position of a rotating contact across a resistance element. In a potentiometer, the whole input voltage is laid across the entire length of the resistor. The potentiometer is a fundamental instrument used to compare the emf of two cells and to calibrate ammeters, voltmeters, and watt-meters. The potentiometer's measuring device is essentially a voltage divider used to measure electric potential (voltage).

Potentiometers are best suited for controlling electrical devices such as volume controls on  various types of audio equipment. Additionally, mechanism-operated potentiometers can be used as position transducers, for example, in a joystick.

Generally, there are a few specific terms that are used to describe potentiometer types:

  • Slide pot or slider pot: a potentiometer modified by sliding a wiper left or right, up or down, using a finger or thumb.
  • Dumble pot or thumbwheel pot: a small rotating potentiometer meant to be adjusted infrequently using a small thumbwheel.
  • Trimpot or trimmer pot: a trimmer potentiometer typically meant to be changed once or twice rarely for fine-tuning an electrical signal.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Potentiometers

Potentiometers are often constructed with three terminals that form a voltage divider, and with two terminals, they become a variable resistor. As such, potentiometers are an economically friendly instrument. One can buy as many potentiometers as they require at affordable rates.This device is designed for non-specialists as it is not complex, making it easier to utilize.

Potentiometers have high efficiency, enabling them to measure the potential difference between points.You can rely on this instrument for your results as it is highly accurate.The potentiometers are considered reliable instruments because they have been used in engineering for decades.One can even estimate small EMFsbecause of their sensitivity.

Potentiometers consist of two variants: linear and rotary. One can easily use them in volume control instruments, distance measuring devices, timers, alarm systems, TVs, transducers, and medical equipment.The use of digital potentiometers is increasing day by day because they are more accurate than analog ones.As a result of their compact nature, they can even fit into tight spaces.

You can use these instruments for years without any problems, and they provide improved performance with low noise. Even in high vibration conditions, the wipers do not bounce. The potentiometer also has IP69(k) protection, which is highly beneficial.

Drawbacks of potentiometers include: they are slow to operate, have low accuracy, and have limited bandwidth. There may also be minimal friction present due to the wiper gliding across the resistive component.In addition, sometimes the external factors may hinder the accuracy of producing results.As a result of flowing current, it is extremely important, yet difficult, to maintain uniform wire temperature.


Irrespective of their flaws, potentiometers are still a versatile electronic instrument. Don't forget to contact Aerospace Orbit if you require such devices. We are one of the best online distributors of electronic parts. If you have any queries regarding potentiometers, please contact us as soon as possible.


November 2, 2023

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