Image Credit: Digi-Key | Microchip | Digi-Key
Digital potentiometers are three-terminal resistors with an adjustable center connection. To set the output resistance, a digital signal is sent through an electrical interface.
Digital Potentiometers Configurations
There are two main configurations for digital potentiometers: single resistor and resistor chip array.
Single resistors are standard, passive resistors with a single resistance value.
Resistor chip arrays contain several resistors housed in a single package.
For both digital potentiometer configurations, specifications include current rating, resistance range, temperature coefficient of resistance (TCR), tolerance, number of steps or taps, operating direct current (DC) voltage, and operating temperature. For resistor chip arrays, the number of resistors in the package is also an important consideration.
Digital Potentiometers Parameters
Resistance taper and wiper memory are additional parameters to consider when selecting digital potentiometers.
There are two choices for resistance taper: linear and log (audio).
Digital potentiometers with a linear taper provide an equal change in resistance per unit of rotation.
By contrast, devices with a log or audio taper provide a logarithmic change in resistance per unit of rotation.
Wiper memory for digital potentiometers is either volatile or non-volatile.
Volatile memory is lost when power is turned off.
Non-volatile memory is retained even when power is removed.
Categories & Features
Digital potentiometers differ in terms of categories, applications, and features. Categories include precision resistors and telecom resistors.
Precision resistors have a very low TCR and a very low tolerance value.
Telecom resistors are designed for telecommunications devices such as mobile phones and two-way radios.
In terms of applications, digital potentiometers for aerospace, audio / video (AV), automotive, and medical applications are commonly available. Industrial resistors are suitable for a variety of heavy-duty, industrial applications.
General-use devices are used in consumer products, computers or disk drives, and to provide over-current protection. Some digital potentiometers are water-cooled or provide electrostatic discharge (ESD) protection. Others feature a fireproof case, an electrically isolated case, or have a non-flame coating.
Digital potentiometers that are sold in European Union (EU) nations must meet three important directives: Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), End-of-Life Vehicles (ELV), and Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment (WEEE). RoHS requires all manufactures of electronic and electrical equipment sold in Europe to demonstrate that their products contain only minimal levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyl and polybrominated diphenyl ether. Similarly, digital potentiometers that are ELV-compliant contain only minimal levels of mercury, cadmium and lead. Suppliers that comply with WEEE are responsible for financing the collection, treatment, recycling and recovery of their products.
Related Products & Services
Chip resistors are passive resistors with a form factor of an integrated circuit (IC) chip. Typically, they are manufactured using thin-film technology.
Current Sensing Resistors
Current sensing resistors convert the current flowing through it to a voltage drop. Monitoring or measuring this voltage drop allows the current through the resistor to be measured. Applications for current sensing resistors include power supplies, receptacles, and battery packs.
Power resistors are used in power generation and distribution, high-voltage applications, control systems, and other power system applications. They include load banks, grounding resistors, and dynamic braking resistors.
Resistor, Capacitor Networks
Resistor, capacitor networks (RC networks) are integrated circuits (ICs) that contain resistor-capacitor arrays in a single chip.
Resistors are electrical components that oppose the flow of either direct or alternating current. They are used to protect, operate, or control circuits.
Shunts resistors are connected in parallel with an instrument or component to divert electrical current. They provide an alternate path for current in case of failure.