Electricity & Megnetism

Difference between potentiometer and voltmeter in tabular form

Difference between potentiometer and voltmeterThe voltmeter is used to find the potential difference,it has high and finite resistance. While potentiometer has high and infinite resistance. More differences between potentiometer and voltmeter are given in the comparison table below.

Potentiometer Vs Voltmeter

Voltmeter Potentiometer
Its resistance is high and finite Its resistance is high and  infinite
It draws some current from emf source It does not draw any electric current from the source of  emf
 Potential difference measured by it is less
then the actual potential difference
Potential difference measured by it is equal to
actual potential difference
It has low sensitivity It has high sensitivity
It is a versatile instrument It measures only emf or potential difference
It is based on the deflection method It is based on the zero deflection method

See also: Difference between galvanometer and ammeter


The potentiometer is a device mainly used to measure the emf of a given cell and to compare emfs of cells. It is also used to measure the internal resistance of a given cell.
Circuit diagram of potentiometer
Potentiometer consists of a long resistive wire AB of length L (about 6m to 10
m long) made up of mangnine or constantan. A battery of known voltage e and internal resistance r called supplier battery or driver cell. Connection of these two forms a primary circuit.
One terminal of another cell (whose emf E is to be measured) is connected at one end of the main
circuit and the other terminal at any point on the resistive wire through a galvanometer G. This forms the secondary circuit.
Other details are as follows
J = Jockey
K = Key
R = Resistance of potentiometer wire,
r = Specific resistance of potentiometer wire.
Rh = Variable resistance which controls the current through the wire AB
(3) Points to be remember
(i) The specific resistance (r) of potentiometer wire must be high but its temperature coefficient of
resistance (a) must be low.
(ii) All higher potential points (terminals) of primary and secondary circuits must be connected
together at point A and all lower potential points must be connected to point B or jockey.
(iii) The value of the known potential difference must be greater than the value of the unknown potential
difference to be measured.
(iv) The potential gradient must remain constant. For this, the current in the primary circuit must
remain constant and the jockey must not be slided in contact with the wire.
(v) The diameter of the potentiometer wire must be uniform everywhere.
See also : Joules law
Sensitivity of potentiometer : A potentiometer is said to be
more sensitive if it measures a small potential difference more
(i) The sensitivity of the potentiometer is assessed by its potential
gradient. The sensitivity is inversely proportional to the potential gradient.
(ii) In order to increase the sensitivity of potentiometer
(a) The resistance in the primary circuits will have to be decreased.
(b) The length of the potentiometer wire will have to be increased so that the length may be measured more
Related topics :
Difference between ammeter and voltmeter
Difference between emf and potential difference
Difference between electric potential and potential difference

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