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An electric resistor is a two-terminal passive component specifically used to oppose and limit current. The current through a resistor is in direct proportion to the voltage across the resistor's terminals. This relationship is represented by Ohm's law:

Where I is the current through the conductor in units of amperes, V is the potential difference measured across the conductor in units of volts, and R is the resistance of the conductor in units of ohms.

The ohm (symbol: ) is the SI unit of electrical resistance. An ohm is equivalent to a volt per ampere. Since resistors are specified and manufactured over a very large range of values, the derived units of milliohm (1 m = 10 3 ), kilohm (1 k = 103 ), and megohm (1 M = 106 ) are also in common usage.

The symbol used for a resistor in a circuit diagram varies from standard to standard and country to country. Two typical symbols are as follows.

(a) Resistor, (b) Rheostat (variable resistor), (c) Potentiometer.


IEC-style resistor symbol

The working of a resistor can be explained with the similarity of water flowing through a pipe. Consider a pipe through which water is allowed to flow. If the diameter of the pipe is reduced, the water flow will be reduced. If the force of the water is increased by increasing the pressure, then the energy will be dissipated as heat. There will also be an enormous difference in pressure in the head and tail ends of the pipe. In this example, the force applied to the water is similar to the current flowing through the resistance. The pressure applied can be resembled to the voltage.


In a series configuration, the current through all of the resistors is the same, but the voltage across each resistor will be in proportion to its resistance. The potential difference (voltage) seen across the network is the sum of those voltages, thus the total resistance can be found as the sum of those resistances:

As a special case, the resistance of N resistors connected in series, each of the same resistance R is given by NR.

Resistors in a parallel configuration are each subject to the same potential difference (voltage), however the currents through them add. The conductances of the resistors then add to determine the conductance of the network. Thus the equivalent resistance (Req) of the network can be computed:

Resistors can be broadly classified based on the following criteria: The type of material used the power rating and resistance value.


In some scenarios, an electrical circuit may need a lesser amount of current to flow through it than the input value. Fixed resistors are used in these situations to limit the flow of current.


These resistors are cylindrical rods which are a mixture of carbon granules and powdered ceramic. The resistor value depends on the composition of the ceramic material. A higher quantity of ceramic content will result in more resistance. Since the rod is coated with an insulated material, there are chances of damage due to excessive heat caused by soldering. High current and voltage can also damage the resistor. These factors bring irreversible changes in the resistance power of these resistors. This type of resistor is rarely used nowadays due to their high cost and are only preferred in power supply and welding circuits.


This resistor is formed by depositing a carbon film layer on an insulating substrate. Helical cuts are then made through the carbon film to trace a long and helical resistive path. The resistance can be varied by using different resistivity

carbon material and modifying the shape of the resistor. The helical resistive path make these resistors highly inductive and of little use for RF applications. They exhibit a temperature coefficient between -100 and -900 ppm/ C. The carbon film is protected either by a conformal epoxy coating or a ceramic tube. The operation of these resistors requires high pulse stability.


These resistors are made from small rods of ceramic coated with metal (such as a nickel alloy) or metal oxide (such as tin oxide). The value of resistance is controlled mainly by the thickness of the coating layer (the thicker the layer, the lower is the value of resistance). A fine spiral groove can be cut along the rod using a laser to split the carbon or metal coating effectively into a long and spiral strip, which forms the resistor.

Metal film resistors can be obtained in a wide range of resistance values from a few Ohms to tens of millions of Ohms with a very small tolerance. For example, for a stated value of 100K Ohm, the actual value will be between 99K Ohm and 101K Ohm. Small carbon, metal and oxide resistors come in various colors such as dark red, brown, blue, green, grey or white.


Wire wound resistors vary in size and physical appearance. Their resistive elements are commonly lengths of wire, usually an alloy such as Nickel/Chromium or Magnesium wrapped around a small ceramic or glass fiber rod and coated in an insulating flameproof cement film. They are normally available in low values of resistance but are capable of dissipating large amounts of power. These resistors can get very hot during use. For this reason, these resistors are housed in a finned metal case that can be bolted to a metal chassis to dissipate the heat generated. Protection from fire is important and fireproof cases or coatings are vital. Lead-out wires are normally welded rather than soldered to the resistor.

Enamel resistors are used in scenarios where high power is involved and are encapsulated in heat proof bases. Since wire wound resistors are primarily coils, they have more undesirable inductance than other types of resistor, although winding the wire in sections with alternately reversed directions can minimize inductance. Other techniques employ bifilar winding to reduce cross-section area of the coil. For the most demanding circuits, resistors with Ayrton-Perry windings are used.


The principal difference between thin film and thick film resistors is how the film is applied to the cylinder (axial resistors) or the surface (SMD resistors). Thin film resistors are made by sputtering (a method of vacuum deposition) the resistive

material onto an insulating substrate whereas thick film are made using screen and stencil printing processes. Ceramic conductors such as tantalum nitride (TaN), ruthenium dioxide (RuO2), lead oxide (PbO), bismuth ruthenate (Bi2Ru2O7), nickel chromium (NiCr), and bismuth iridate (Bi2Ir2O7) are the materials commonly used for making thin film resistors. Thick film resistors are usually made by mixing ceramics with powdered glass. Thick films have tolerances ranging from 1 to 2% and a temperature coefficient between 200 or 250 ppm/K. Thin film resistors are usually more expensive than thick film resistors. Thin film resistors are preferred for microwave passive and active power components such as microwave power resistors, microwave power terminations, microwave resistive power dividers, microwave power attenuators.


This type of resistor helps to achieve very low power dissipation along with very high component density. Most modern circuits use tiny SMT resistors. These are made by depositing a film of resistive material such as tin oxide on a tiny ceramic chip. The edges of the resistor are then accurately ground or cut with a laser to give precise resistance across the device. Tolerances may be as low as

0.02%. Contacts at each end are provided, which are soldered directly onto the conductive print on the circuit board, usually by automatic assembly methods. These are mostly used where space is an important factor.


These resistors are the combination of resistances which may be giving identical value at all pins, with one pin acting as a common terminal. These resistors are available in both single in line package and dual in line package and may be surface mount or through hole. These are used in applications such as pull up/pull down, DAC etc.


Presets and potentiometers are commonly used types of variable resistors. These are mostly used for voltage division and setting the sensitivity of sensors. These have a sliding contact or wiper which can be rotated with the help of a screw driver to change the resistance value. In the linear type, the change in resistance is linear as the wiper rotates. In the logarithmic type, the resistance changes

exponentially as the wiper slides. The value is meant to be set correctly when installed in some device, and is not adjusted by the device's user.

The variable may have three tabs where the middle tab is the wiper. If all the three tabs are used, it behaves as a voltage divider. If only wiper tab is used along with another tab, it becomes a variable resistor or rheostat. If only the side tabs are used, then it behaves as a fixed resistor. These are mostly used for tuning, voltage division and adjusting sensitivity of sensors. The variable can have one or two switches in-built where the resistor operates for the ON state of the switch(s). Such resistors were mostly used for volume control in older TV and radio circuits. There may also be four-tab variables where the fourth lead is for feedback signal and placed near the first tab. Wire wound variable resistors are used for very precise control of resistance. The wiper may also be rotary (as in most presets), sliding or disc shaped (as used in pocket radios for volume control).




These are two terminal variable resistors designed for handling higher voltages and currents. These are constructed by 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. A rheostat is also made from resistance wire wound on a heat-resisting cylinder with the slider made from a number of metal fingers. The fingers can be moved along the coil of resistance wire by a sliding knob, thus changing the tapping point.



Thermistors are special resistors whose resistance changes with the temperature. If the resistance increases with increase in temperature, then it is called positive temperature coefficient (PTC) or posistors. If the resistance decreases with the increase in temperature, then it is called a negative temperature coefficient (NTC). An NTC can be replaced by a transistor with a trimmer potentiometer. PTCs are mostly used as current limiter for circuit protection. As the heat dissipation of resistor increases, the resistance is increased thereby limiting the current. The NTCs are mostly used for temperature sensing, replacement of fuses in power supply protection and for low temperature measurements of up to 10K. These are constructed using sintered metal oxides in ceramic matrix.



LDRs have cadmium sulfide zigzag tack whose resistance decreases as the light intensity incident on it increases. In the absence of light, its resistance is in mega ohms but on the application of light, the resistance falls drastically. These resistors are used in many consumer items such as camera light meters, street lights, clock radios, alarms, and outdoor clocks.




Though resistors can cause wastage of electricity, it has a lot of advantages and applications in our daily life. Resistance is one of the main ingredients in the working of a light bulb. When electricity passes through the filament of the bulb, it burns bright as it turns extremely hot due to its smaller size. Though this mechanism wastes a lot of electricity, we are forced to use it to obtain light. The light used nowadays are highly efficient than the older incandescent lamps. The similar filament working is the main ingredient in the working of some of our usual household stuffs like electric kettles, electric radiators, electric showers, coffee makers, toasters, and so on. The application of variable resistance is also helpful to us. Our TVs, radios, loud speakers and so on work on this principle.



AS CURRENT LIMITER: By placing a resistor in series with another component, such as a lightemitting diode, the current through that component is reduced to a known safe value. AS ATTENUATOR: An attenuator is a network of two or more resistors (a voltage divider) used to reduce the voltage of a signal. AS LINE TERMINATOR: A line terminator is a resistor at the end of a transmission line, designed to match impedance and hence minimize reflections of the signal. AS HEATERS: All resistors dissipate heat. This is the principle behind electric heaters


Although we may think that resistors dont play any kind of significant role within electrical as well as electronic circuits, but they do play much important role as far as these circuits are concerned and without any ambiguity. Without proper load or proper biasing no active circuit can work out in a stable manner as without proper biasing. In most cases circuits without resistors may be open and will do no significant work as well. Therefore resistors cannot be taken as normal electrical / electronic component, although they are widely used in almost every kind of circuits