Resistor is a component of an electrical circuit that resists the flow of electrical current. A resistor has two terminals across which electricity must pass, and is designed to drop the voltage of the current as it flows from one terminal to the next. A resistor is primarily used to create and maintain a known safe current within an electrical component.
Resistance is measured in ohms, after Ohm's law. This rule states that electrical resistance is equal to the drop in voltage across the terminals of the resistor divided by the current being applied to the resistor. A high ohm rating indicates a high resistance to current. This rating can be written in a number of different ways depending on the ohm rating. For example, 81R represents 81 ohms, while 81K represents 81,000 ohms.
The amount of resistance offered by a resistor is determined by its physical construction. A carbon composition resistor has resistive carbon packed into a ceramic cylinder, while a carbon film resistor consists of a similar ceramic tube, but has conductive carbon film wrapped around the outside. Metal film or metal oxide resistors are made much the same way, but with metal instead of carbon. A wirewound resistor, made with metal wire wrapped around clay, plastic, or fiberglass tubing, offers resistance at higher power levels. For applications that must withstand high temperatures, materials such as cermet, a ceramic-metal composite, or tantalum, a rare metal, are used to build a resistor that can endure heat.
A resistor is coated with paint or enamel, or covered in molded plastic to protect it. Because resistors are often too small to be written on, a standardized color-coding system is used to identify them. The first three colors represent ohm value, and a fourth indicates the tolerance, or how close by percentage the resistor is to its ohm value. This is important for two reasons: the nature of resistor construction is imprecise, and if used above its maximum current, the value of the resistor can alter or the unit itself can burn up.