What Does Potentiometer Mean?

A potentiometer is a type of resistor featuring variable and adjustable resistance controlled via a sliding or rotating contact. In order to regulate resistance, the potentiometer acts as a voltage divider, lowering or increasing the voltage output by controlling the resistance value. It is usually used to control electronic devices such as the knob that controls volume and other functions in an audio/video equipment.


Techopedia Explains Potentiometer

A potentiometer is essentially a manually adjustable resistor that has three terminals. It is also an electro-mechanical circuit since it has moving parts and electronic components. The slider determines the resistance of the device, which, by principles of electricity, also varies the resultant voltage moving out of the device.

As the slider moves up or down (or rotates around) the resistance element, the resistance increases and decreases proportionately with it, and considering the simple formula of voltage = current × resistance, it can be surmised that, with a constant current flow, changing the resistance in the potentiometer also changes the voltage output.

There are many kinds of potentiometers, the most common of which is the rotary type, which is also available in a variety of flavors, depending on the precision or accuracy of the required voltage or resistance for the application. These are often found in volume control knobs of various electrical audio devices. There are also slide-type potentiometers, which are commonly used in audio equipment as slide controls.


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Margaret Rouse

Margaret Rouse is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical, business audience. Over the past twenty years her explanations have appeared on TechTarget websites and she's been cited as an authority in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine and Discovery Magazine.Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages. If you have a suggestion for a new definition or how to improve a technical explanation, please email Margaret or contact her…