A resistor is a passive two-terminal electrical component that implements electrical resistance as a circuit element. Resistors may be used to reduce current flow, and, at the same time, may act to lower voltage levels within circuits. In electronic circuits, resistors are used to limit current flow, to adjust signal levels, bias active elements, and terminate transmission lines among other uses. High-power resistors, that can dissipate many watts of electrical power as heat, may be used as part of motor controls, in power distribution systems, or as test loads for generators. Fixed resistors have resistances that only change slightly with temperature, time or operating voltage. Variable resistors can be used to adjust circuit elements (such as a volume control or a lamp dimmer), or as sensing devices for heat, light, humidity, force, or chemical activity.
Resistors are common elements of electrical networks and electronic circuits and are ubiquitous in electronic equipment. Practical resistors as discrete components can be composed of various compounds and forms. Resistors are also implemented within integrated circuits.
The electrical function of a resistor is specified by its resistance: common commercial resistors are manufactured over a range of more than nine orders of magnitude. The nominal value of the resistance falls within the manufacturing tolerance, indicated on the component.