Thursday, July 24, 2008


A rheostat is a two-terminal variable resistor. Often these are designed to handle much higher voltage and current. Typically these are constructed as a resistive wire wrapped to form a toroid coil with the wiper moving over the upper surface of the toroid, sliding from one turn of the wire to the next. Sometimes a rheostat is made from resistance wire wound on a heat resisting cylinder with the slider made from a number of metal fingers that grip lightly onto a small portion of the turns of resistance wire. The 'fingers' can be moved along the coil of resistance wire by a sliding knob thus changing the 'tapping' point. They are usually used as variable resistors rather than variable potential dividers.

Any three-terminal potentiometer can be used as a two-terminal variable resistor, by not connecting to the 3rd terminal. It is common practice to connect the wiper terminal to the unused end of the resistance track to reduce the amount of resistance variation caused by dirt on the track.

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