PWM on an Oscilloscope

What PWM looks like on an oscilloscope. PWM is Pulse Width Modulation which can be used to change the brightness of an LED. This article and video shows PWM on an oscilloscope by using the Fade example sketch or program from the Arduino IDE. An LED and series resistor is connected to an Arduino Uno pin and the Arduino sketch continually adjusts the brightness of the LED by using PWM on the pin.




Video Showing PWM on an Oscilloscope

The following video shows PWM on an oscilloscope that is continually changing in order to change the brightness of the LED. Both the LED and Arduino Uno can be seen in the inset video. PicoScope is a PC based oscilloscope that connects to the USB port of a computer. Software running on the computer acts as the oscilloscope screen and control panel and can be seen in the video.

Hardware and Software for the PWM Demo

Find the Fade sketch in the Arduino IDE under File → Examples → 01.Basics → Fade from the top menu. The oscilloscope GND is connected to the Arduino GND. Pin 9 of the Arduino is used as the measurement point to measure the PWM waveform on the oscilloscope. The image below shows how the LED and series resistor are connected to the Arduino Uno. For more information, see the related Fade tutorial on the Arduino website.

Fade Arduino Example used to Show PWM on an Oscilloscope

Fade Arduino Example used to Show PWM on an Oscilloscope

How PWM Works

PWM changes the duty cycle of a square wave, which means that it changes the ratio of its on time to its off time. When the square wave is on, or at 5V, for longer than it is off, the LED will burn brighter. If the square wave is off, or at GND, for longer than it is on, the LED will burn dimmer.

Duty cycle of a PWM waveform is usually given as a percentage. If the duty cycle is 80%, then the on cycle of the square wave is on for 80% of the time and off for 20% of the time. A square wave with a 50% duty cycle has an equal on and off time.

 

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