The potentiometer is a variable resistor used as a voltage divider. The input voltage is applied across the resistance element and the output voltage is taken from the wiper, relative to one end of the element. It is one of the most well-known elements of electronic circuits. But do you know the advantages and disadvantages of using a potentiometer? If your answer is “no” keep on reading.
Advantages of Potentiometer
The benefits of the potentiometer are:
- The potentiometer has a simple construction. It has three terminals with a sliding contact that forms an adjustable voltage divider. If only two terminals are used, it acts as a variable resistor or rheostat.
- It is a low-cost instrument. You can buy hundreds of potentiometers at an affordable price. (Check price)
- It can be operated easily. The potentiometer is not complex and is easy to use.
- It has a wide range of resistance values.
- It has high efficiency. It enables to the measurement of the difference in potential between two points.
- It is accurate. You can rely on your measurement results. It works on the zero deflection method. It means that the possibility of an error is very small. To increase the accuracy, you can increase the length of the potentiometer wire according to your requirement.
- It has proven technology. The potentiometer has been used for decades in engineering.
- We have been using potentiometers for years. An inventor named George Little developed and patented the first potentiometer which he called an “Improvement in Rheostats or Resistance Coils” in 1871.
- It is sensitive. You can even measure small emf’s.
- The potentiometer has two types: Linear and rotary. They can be used in many applications such as volume control devices, distance measurement devices, timers, relays, dimmers, alarm systems, televisions, transducers and medical equipment.
- Digital potentiometers are more accurate than analog ones. The usage of digital models is increasing day by day.
- The standardization of a potentiometer can be done with a standard cell.
- It does not need any energy to operate. It is self-energized.
- It is compact. It can be used where space constraints may be present. It fits into tight spaces.
- It has a robust construction. It easily withstands exposure to harsh chemicals and high temperatures. It is also designed to provide protection against dust or moisture ingress
- Linear potentiometers feature rugged extruded aluminum housings to withstand harsh chemicals and immersion in oils or water.
- It has a long lifespan. You can use it for years without any problem. (up to 50000 operating cycles)
- It provides enhanced performance and low noise.
- No wiper bounce in high-vibration environments.
- It has very low power dissipation.
- It has a high degree of protection up to IP69(k)
Disadvantages of Potentiometer
The drawbacks of the potentiometer are:
- It is slow in operation.
- It has low accuracy.
- It has limited bandwidth.
- If you use a linear potentiometer, you should apply a large force to move the sliding contact.
- There is a possibility of friction and wear due to the sliding of the wiper across the resistive element.
- External factors sometimes hinder the accuracy of producing the results.
- The temperature of the potentiometer wire must remain uniform but it is difficult because of the flowing current.
In conclusion, the potentiometer is a widely used element in electronic circuits with several advantages and disadvantages. Its simple construction, low cost, ease of operation, a wide range of resistance values, high efficiency, accuracy, proven technology, sensitivity, and compactness are some of its advantages. On the other hand, its slow operation, low accuracy, limited bandwidth, the possibility of friction and wear, and temperature uniformity are some of its disadvantages. Despite its drawbacks, the potentiometer continues to be a reliable and popular tool for measuring potential differences and adjusting resistance in a wide range of applications, from medical equipment to industrial machinery. The continuous advancement of technology has also resulted in the development of digital potentiometers, which offer even greater accuracy and performance.