Resistors And Resistive Materials

Thursday, February 8th, 2018 - Passive Components

Resistor are components that have a nearly 0° phase shift between voltage and current over a wide range of frequencies with the average value of resistance independent of the instantaneous value of voltage or current. Preferred values of ratings are given ANSI standards or corresponding ISO or MIL standards. Resistors are typically identified by their construction and by the resistance materials used. Fixed resistors have two or more terminals and are not adjustable. Variable resistors permit adjustment of resistance or voltage division by a control handle or with a tool.

Resistor Types

There are a wide variety of resistor types, each suited to a particular application or group of applications. Low-wattage fixed resistors are usually identified by color-coding on the body of the device, as illustrated in the following image. The major types of resistors are identified in the following sections.

Wire-Wound Resistor

The resistance element of most wire-wound resistors is resistance wire or ribbon wound as a single-layer helix over a ceramic or fiberglass core, which causes these resistors to have a residual series inductance that affects phase shift at high frequencies, particularly in large-size devices. Wire-wound resistors have low noise and are stable with temperature, with temperature coefficients normally between ±5 and 200 ppm/°C. Resistance values between 0.1 and 100,000 W with accuracies between 0.001 and 20 percent are available with power dissipation ratings between 1 and 250 W at 70°C. The resistance element is usually covered with a vitreous enamel, which can be molded in plastic. Special construction includes such items as enclosure in an aluminum casing for heatsink mounting or a special winding to reduce inductance.

Resistors And Resistive MaterialsColor code for fixed resistors

Resistor connections are made by self-leads or to terminals for other wires or printed circuit boards.

Metal Film Resistor

Metal film, or cermet, resistors have characteristics similar to wire-wound resistors except at much lower inductance. They are available as axial lead components in 1/8, 1/4, or 1/2 W ratings, in chip resistor form for high-density assemblies, or as resistor networks containing multiple resistors in one package suitable for printed circuit insertion, as well as in tubular form similar to high-power wire-wound resistors. Metal film resistors are essentially printed circuits using a thin layer of resistance alloy on a flat or tubular ceramic or other suitable insulating substrate. The shape and thickness of the conductor pattern determine the resistance value for each metal alloy used. Resistance is trimmed by cutting into part of the conductor pattern with an abrasive or a laser. Tin oxide is also used as a resistance material.

Carbon Film Resistor

Carbon film resistors are similar in construction and characteristics to axial lead metal film resistors. Because the carbon film is a granular material, random noise may be developed because of variations in the voltage drop between granules. This noise can be of sufficient level to affect the performance of circuits providing high grain when operating at low signal levels.

Carbon Composition Resistor

Carbon composition resistors contain a cylinder of carbon-based resistive material molded into a cylinder of high-temperature plastic, which also anchors the external leads. These resistors can have noise problems similar to carbon film resistors, but their use in electronic equipment for the last 50 years has demonstrated their outstanding reliability, unmatched by other components. These resistors are commonly available at values from 2.7 Ωwith tolerances of 5, 10, and 20 percent in 1/8-, 1/4-, 1/2-, 1-, and 2-W sizes.

Control and Limiting Resistors

Resistors with a large negative temperature coefficient, thermistors, are often used to measure temperature, limit inrush current into motors or power supplies, or to compensate bias circuits. Resistors with a large positive temperature coefficient are used in circuits that have to match the coefficient of copper wire. Special resistors also include those that have a low resistance when cold and become a nearly open circuit when a critical temperature or current is exceeded to protect transformers or other devices.

Resistor Networks

A number of metal film or similar resistors are often packaged in a single module suitable for printed circuit mounting. These devices see applications in digital circuits, as well as in fixed attenuators or padding networks.

Adjustable Resistors

Cylindrical wire-wound power resistors can be made adjustable with a metal clamp in contact with one or more turns not covered with enamel along an axial stripe. Potentiometers are resistors with a movable arm that makes contact with a resistance element, which is connected to at least two other terminals at its ends. The resistance element can be circular or linear in shape, and often two or more sections are mechanically coupled or ganged for simultaneous control of two separate circuits. Resistance materials include all those described previously.

Trimmer potentiometers are similar in nature to conventional potentiometers except that adjustment requires a tool.

Most potentiometers have a linear taper, which means that resistance changes linearly with control motion when measured between the movable arm and the “low,” or counterclockwise, terminal. Gain controls, however, often have a logarithmic taper so that attenuation changes linearly in decibels (a logarithmic ratio). The resistance element of a potentiometer may also contain taps that permit the connection of other components as required in a specialized circuit.

Resistivity of Selected Ceramics

Resistivity of Selected Ceramics

Electrical Resistivity of Various Substances in 10–8 Ω

Electrical Resistivity of Various Substances in 10–8 Ω

Electrical Resistivity of Various Substances in 10–8 Ω• m

Electrical Resistivity of Various Substances in 10–8 Ω• m

Electrical Resistivity of Various Substances in 10–8 Ω• 2

Electrical Resistivity of Various Metallic Elements at (approximately) Room Temperature

Electrical Resistivity of Various Metallic Elements at (approximately) Room Temperature


For measurement of audio, video, and RF equipment, these steps may be decades of 0.1, 1, and 10 dB. Circuits for unbalanced and balanced fixed attenuators are shown in foloowing image. Fixed attenuator networks can be cascaded and switched to provide step adjustment of attenuation inserted in a constant-impedance network.

Unbalanced and balanced fixed attenuator networksUnbalanced and balanced fixed attenuator networks for equal source and load resistance: (a) T configuration, (b) π configuration, (c) bridged-T configuration.

Audio attenuators generally are designed for a circuit impedance of 150Ω, although other impedances can be used for specific applications. Video attenuators are generally designed to operate with unbalanced 75-Ω grounded-shield coaxial cable. RF attenuators are designed for use with 75- or 50-Ω coaxial cable.

Variable attenuators are adjustable resistor networks that show a calibrated increase in attenuation for each switched step.

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