Definition - What does Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) mean?
Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is a modulation process or technique used in most communication systems for encoding the amplitude of a signal right into a pulse width or duration of another signal, usually a carrier signal, for transmission. Although PWM is also used in communications, its main purpose is actually to control the power that is supplied to various types of electrical devices, most especially to inertial loads such as AC/DC motors.
Pulse-width modulation (PWM) is used for controlling the amplitude of digital signals in order to control devices and applications requiring power or electricity. It essentially controls the amount of power, in the perspective of the voltage component, that is given to a device by cycling the on-and-off phases of a digital signal quickly and varying the width of the "on" phase or duty cycle. To the device, this would appear as a steady power input with an average voltage value, which is the result of the percentage of the on time. The duty cycle is expressed as the percentage of being fully (100%) on.
A very powerful benefit of PWM is that power loss is very minimal. Compared to regulating power levels using an analog potentiometer to limit the power output by essentially choking the electrical pathway, thereby resulting in power loss as heat, PWM actually turns off the power output rather than limits it. Applications range from controlling DC motors and light dimming to heating elements.