Different Types of Resistors

What is a Resistor

Resistors are devices which can be used in a circuit to control the current. There are many different types of resistors which are used in different situations. The resistance of a conductor is taken to be the ratio of the potential difference across the resistor to the current through the resistor. The figure below shows two standard circuit symbols for a resistor:

Different Types of Resistors - Resistor_Symbols

Circuit symbols of resistors

Physically, resistors typically look like the one shown below:

Different Types of Resistors - A_Resistor

A resistor

Broadly speaking, resistors can be divided into two types: fixed resistors and variable resistors. As their names suggest, the resistance in fixed resistors does not change, whereas a variable resistor’s resistance could be altered easily. In this article, we will look at how different types of resistors are constructed. First, we will look at types of fixed resistors.

Types of Fixed Resistors

Carbon Composition Resistors

Carbon composition resistors are made of granules of graphite and ceramics bound in a binding material. These types of resistors are the cheapest to make.

Different Types of Resistors - Carbon_composition_resistor

Carbon composition resistors

Carbon Film Resistors

Carbon film resistors consist of a “core” of insulating material, around which a “strip” of carbon winds around as a helix. This strip of carbon acts as a narrow conducting path for electrons. 

Metal Film Resistors

Metal film resistors are similar, where a strip of metal winds around the insulating material.

Different Types of Resistors - Carbon_film_resistor

Carbon film resistor

Wirewound Resistors

Wirewound resistors consist of a wire wound around an insulating core. These types of resistors are usually quite large, but they are comparatively more stable.

Different Types of Resistors - Wirewound_resistor

Wirewound resistors

Types of Variable Resistors


Potentiometers are devices with three terminals. With two of the terminals connected to an electric circuit, a potentiometer could be used as a variable resistor.

Different Types of Resistors - Potentiometers

A potentiometer


These consist of a long, thin wire wound around an insulator. By changing the position of a moveable contact, current can be made to flow through different lengths of the wire, giving different values for resistance.

Different Types of Resistors - Rheostats

A diagram of a rheostat

Nonlinear Resistors

Nonlinear resistors are resistors whose resistance changes in response to a physical quantity. Examples include thermistors and light-dependent resistors.

Thermistors are resistors whose resistance changes in response to temperature. In negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistors, the resistance decreases as the temperature increases. In positive temperature coefficient (PTC) resistors, the resistance increases as the temperature increases. Thermistors are used in circuits that regulate temperature. The symbol for a thermistor is shown below:

Different Types of Resistors - Thermistor_Symbol

Symbol of a thermistor

Light-dependent resistors (LDRs) are resistors whose resistance decreases when the intensity of light increases. The symbol for an LDR is shown below:

Different Types of Resistors - LDR_Symbol

Symbol of LDR

Its ability to change resistance in accordance to lighting makes them useful in lighting circuits, as shown below:

Different Types of Resistors - Using_LDRs

Using a light-dependent resistor in a lighting circuit

As the light intensity decreases (the environment becoming darker), the resistance across the LDR increases. This causes the LDR to draw a higher proportion of voltage from the cell. As a result, the voltage and current across the lamp increases, causing it to grow brighter.


Image Courtesy:

“ American-style resistor (a)…” by Scwerllguy (Made in Inkscape from scratch) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons (Modified)

“The IEC Symbol for a Resistor, with the specified 3:1 aspect ratio (IEC 60617)” by Markus Kuhn (Made in Inkscape from scratch) [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons (Modified)

“Showing a resistor component with 330 Ω and a tolerance of 5%” by Nunikasi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Some old carbon? resistors in an old valve radio…” by Ozguy89 (Own work) [Public Domain], via Wikipedia

“Carbon resistor TR212, 1 kiloohm, only partially coated as manufacturing mistake, carbon layer shown.” by Shaddack (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Пускотормозные сопротивления КТСУ на трамвайном вагоне 71-619КТ.” by Сергей Филатов (from ru.wikipedia) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

“A potentiometer” by Iainf (Self-photographed) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

“Charles Wheatstone’s 1843 Rheostat with a moving whisker” by Wheatstone, Charlesn (Wheatstone, Charles: “An Account of several new Instruments and Processes for determining the Constants of a Voltaic Circuit”, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Volume 133, 1843, pp. 308-309.) [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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