# 2.44 Potential Dividers

## Potential Dividers

• The electrical voltages rule is defined as:

The sum of the e.m.f.s in a closed circuit loop is equal to the sum of the potential differences around that loop

• Therefore, when two resistors are connected in series,  the potential difference across the power source will be divided across the two resistors

• Potential dividers are circuits that produce an output voltage as a fraction of the input voltage
• This is done by using two resistors in series to split or divide the voltage of the supply in a chosen ratio
• Potential dividers have three main purposes:
• To provide a variable potential difference
• To enable a specific potential difference to be chosen
• To split the potential difference of a power source between two or more components

• Potential dividers are used widely in volume controls and sensory circuits using LDRs and thermistors

• The link between the input voltage and the output voltage across each resistor is linked in an equation Potential divider diagram and equation

• The input voltage Vin is applied across both resistors, which are in series
• The output voltage Vout is measured across one of the resistors, in this case resistor R2
• The potential difference V across each resistor depends upon its resistance R:
• The resistor with the largest resistance will have the greater potential difference across it
• This is shown as a greater Vout
• This is from V = IR
• If the resistance of one of the resistors is increased, it will get a greater share of the potential difference, whilst the other resistor will get a smaller share

• Since potential divider circuits are based on the ratio of voltage between components, and since V=IR, this is equal to the ratio of the resistances of the resistors
• Therefore, the ratios of the potential differences and resistances across each resistor can be linked • Where:
• V1 = potential difference of R1 (V)
• V2 = potential difference or R2 (V)
• Using Ohm's Law, with a constant current, I, these can also be written as:
• V1 = IR1
• V2 = IR2

#### Worked example

The circuit shown is designed to light up a lamp when the input voltage exceeds a preset value. Vout is equal to 5.3 V when the lamp lights.

Calculate the input voltage Vin.  ### Get unlimited access

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