Difference Between Potentiometer and Rheostat

What is Potentiometer?

A POT or mostly known as a potentiometer, is an adjustable resistor. This resistor works manually. It is built with three terminals. Two terminals are formed to connect the ends of a resistive element.


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The third one is connected to the wiper, a sliding contact. This wiper’s position controls the resistance ratio between the other two. The potentiometer is used to fix the voltage of the potentiometer. It works as a variable signal divider.

It can also function as a measuring tool. An applicator will use the potentiometers to modify the voltage. It can also get used in the supply of a variable voltage source. When it comes to using the taper law, it can use linear and logarithmic.

A potentiometer can be used in audio devices and television remote controllers. It is also applied as a transducer in joysticks. Displacement transducer is another function that can be done by utilizing a potentiometer.

What is Rheostat?

A rheostat is a resistor. It is built with two terminals. Rheostats will be used if variable control is needed with higher voltages. It maintains and regulates the flow of the current of the electrical circuit of any device as its fundamental operation.

It also contains a transferable wiper. It does not need a link of double terminal ends to act accurately. While one of the ends is performing, the other can remain open without issues.

A rheostat is not as flexible as a potentiometer. Sometimes, a potentiometer can perform as a rheostat, but this can not happen the other way around. A rheostat can never fulfil the functions of a potentiometer.

It gets utilised in electric motors and enormous machines used in industries. A rheostat is also not very adaptable regarding the type of taper law. It precisely uses linear and not logarithmic. It also fails to divide the voltage and regulate it.

Difference Between Potentiometer and Rheostat

  1. A potentiometer is known as a type of resistor. While a rheostat act as a particular variable resistor.
  2. A potentiometer has three terminals to contain sliding contact, and a rheostat has two terminals which form a connection between one side and the wiper.
  3. Voltage dividing is the fundamental function of a potentiometer. At the same time, a rheostat works as a determiner of the current flow.
  4. A potentiometer is used in diagrams, aiming to change the voltage. But on the contrary, a rheostat is used in a system, and the purpose here is to control the current.
  5. A potentiometer has an adjustable divider that regulates the voltage, but a rheostat, on the other hand, lacks this element.

Comparison Between Potentiometer and Rheostat

Parameter of ComparisonPotentiometerRheostat
UtilizationIt is used to control the output voltage.It is used to control current flow.
PurposeIts function is to transmit variable voltage.Its function is to control the current flow.
Type of connectionIts connection is parallel with the source of voltage.Its connection is in series with the load.
Place of applicationIt is placed in a diagram.It is placed in a system.
Applied duringThe potentiometer is used when one needs to tune high the supply voltage to impedance elements.The rheostat is used while tuning the current delivered to low-impedance elements.
DeploymentWe can see the potentiometer’s application in volume and tuning control.The application of Rheostat can be seen in motor controls and dimmers.

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  1. https://aip.scitation.org/doi/abs/10.1063/1.1752299
  2. https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/0950-7671/4/12/303/meta
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