(Pulse Width Modulation) A modulation technique that generates variable-width pulses to represent the amplitude of an analog input signal. Like its fixed-width pulse density modulation (PDM) cousin, the output switching transistor is on more of the time for a high-amplitude signal and off more of the time for a low-amplitude signal. The digital nature (fully on or off) of the PWM circuit is less costly to fabricate than an analog circuit that does not drift over time. See PDM.|
Power Supplies, Motors and Bulbs
PWM is widely used in the common "switch-mode" power supplies that convert AC power to DC for computers and other electronic devices. It is also used to control the speed of a DC motor and the brightness of a bulb. For example, if the line were closed for 1ms, opened for 1ms and continuously repeated, the target would receive an average of 50% of the voltage and run at half speed or half brightness. If the line were closed for 1ms and open for 3ms, the target would receive an average of 25%.
Audio Amplifiers and LCD Screens
PWM is used in audio amplifiers to generate output signals for cellphone speakers to high-power stereo systems. Due to the fully on/off nature of the PWM output, PWM amplifiers produce less heat than traditional analog amplifiers. See Class D amplifier.
In concert with amplitude modulation, PWM is used to deliver the required intensity to the liquid crystals in the pixels of an LCD panel. See LCD and LCD example.