Concept of general description of electrical theory :
Potentiometer in electronics
An instrument that precisely measures an electromotive force (emf) or a voltage by opposing to it a known potential drop established by passing a definite current through a resistor of known characteristics. (A three-terminal resistive voltage divider is sometimes also called a potentiometer.) There are two ways of accomplishing this balance: (1) the current I may be held at a fixed value and the resistance R across which the IR drop is opposed to the unknown may be varied; (2) current may be varied across a fixed resistance to achieve the needed IR drop.
The essential features of a general-purpose constant-current instrument are shown in the illustration. The value of the current is first fixed to match an IR drop to the emf of a reference standard cell. With the standard-cell dial set to read the emf of the reference cell, and the galvanometer (balance detector) in position G1, the resistance of the supply branch of the circuit is adjusted until the IR drop in 10 steps of the coarse dial plus the set portion of the standard-cell dial balances the known reference emf, indicated by a null reading of the galvanometer. This adjustment permits the potentiometer to be read directly in volts. Then, with the galvanometer in position G2, the coarse, intermediate, and slide-wire dials are adjusted until the galvanometer again reads null. If the potentiometer current has not changed, the emf of the unknown can be read directly from the dial settings. There is usually a switching arrangement so that the galvanometer can be quickly shifted between positions 1 and 2 to check that the current has not drifted from its set value.
What does the device POTENTIOMETER do:
Potentiometer techniques may also be used for current measurement, the unknown current being sent through a known resistance and the IR drop opposed by balancing it at the voltage terminals of the potentiometer. Here, of course, internal heating and consequent resistance change of the current-carrying resistor (shunt) may be a critical factor in measurement accuracy; and the shunt design may require attention to dissipation of heat resulting from its I2R power consumption. See also Current measurement; Joule’s law.
Potentiometer techniques have been extended to alternating-voltage measurements, but generally at a reduced accuracy level (usually 0.1% or so). Current is set on an ammeter which must have the same response on ac as on dc, where it may be calibrated with a potentiometer and shunt combination. Balance in opposing an unknown voltage is achieved in one of two ways: (1) a slide-wire and phase-adjustable supply; (2) separate in-phase and quadrature adjustments on slide wires supplied from sources that have a 90° phase difference. Such potentiometers have limited use in magnetic testing.
Construction of POTENTIOMETER :
1 Manually adjustable, variable, electrical resistor. It has a resistance element that is attached to the circuit by three contacts, or terminals. The ends of the resistance element are attached to two input voltage conductors of the circuit, and the third contact, attached to the output of the circuit, is usually a movable terminal that slides across the resistance element, effectively dividing it into two resistors. Since the position of the movable terminal determines what percentage of the input voltage will actually be applied to the circuit, the potentiometer can be used to vary the magnitude of the voltage; for this reason it is sometimes called a voltage divider. Typical uses of potentiometers are in radio volume controls and television brightness controls.
2 Device used to make a precise determination of the electromotive force, or maximum output voltage, of a cell or generator by comparing it with a known voltage.
Theory of operation:
The potentiometer can be used as a voltage divider to obtain a manually adjustable output voltage at the slider (wiper) from a fixed input voltage applied across the two ends of the potentiometer. This is the most common use of them.
The voltage across can be calculated by:
If is large compared to the other resistances (like the input to an operational amplifier), the output voltage can be approximated by the simpler equation:
(dividing throughout by and cancelling terms with as denominator)
As an example, assume
- , , , and
Since the load resistance is large compared to the other resistances, the output voltage will be approximately:
Due to the load resistance, however, it will actually be slightly lower: ≈ 6.623 V.
One of the advantages of the potential divider compared to a variable resistor in series with the source is that, while variable resistors have a maximum resistance where some current will always flow, dividers are able to vary the output voltage from maximum () to ground (zero volts) as the wiper moves from one end of the potentiometer to the other. There is, however, always a small amount of contact resistance.
In addition, the load resistance is often not known and therefore simply placing a variable resistor in series with the load could have a negligible effect or an excessive effect, depending on the load.
Potentiometers are rarely used to directly control significant amounts of power (more than a watt or so). Instead they are used to adjust the level of analog signals (for example volume controls on audio equipment), and as control inputs for electronic circuits. For example, a light dimmer uses a potentiometer to control the switching of a TRIAC and so indirectly to control the brightness of lamps.
Preset potentiometers are widely used throughout electronics wherever adjustments must be made during manufacturing or servicing.
User-actuated potentiometers are widely used as user controls, and may control a very wide variety of equipment functions. The widespread use of potentiometers in consumer electronics declined in the 1990s, with rotary encoders, up/down push-buttons, and other digital controls now more common. However they remain in many applications, such as volume controls and as position sensors.
1 Manually adjustable, variable, electrical resistor. It has a resistance element that is attached to the circuit by three contacts, or terminals. The ends of the resistance element are attached to two input voltage conductors of the circuit, and the third contact, attached to the output of the circuit, is usually a movable terminal that slides across the resistance element, effectively dividing it into two resistors. Since the position of the movable terminal determines what percentage of the input voltage will actually be applied to the circuit, the potentiometer can be used to vary the magnitude of the voltage; for this reason it is sometimes called a voltage divider.