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Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) interface
This provides an overview about the Linux PWM interface
PWMs are commonly used for controlling LEDs, fans or vibrators in
cell phones. PWMs with a fixed purpose have no need implementing
the Linux PWM API (although they could). However, PWMs are often
found as discrete devices on SoCs which have no fixed purpose. It's
up to the board designer to connect them to LEDs or fans. To provide
this kind of flexibility the generic PWM API exists.
Identifying PWMs
Users of the legacy PWM API use unique IDs to refer to PWM devices.
Instead of referring to a PWM device via its unique ID, board setup code
should instead register a static mapping that can be used to match PWM
consumers to providers, as given in the following example:
static struct pwm_lookup board_pwm_lookup[] = {
PWM_LOOKUP("tegra-pwm", 0, "pwm-backlight", NULL),
static void __init board_init(void)
pwm_add_table(board_pwm_lookup, ARRAY_SIZE(board_pwm_lookup));
Using PWMs
Legacy users can request a PWM device using pwm_request() and free it
after usage with pwm_free().
New users should use the pwm_get() function and pass to it the consumer
device or a consumer name. pwm_put() is used to free the PWM device. Managed
variants of these functions, devm_pwm_get() and devm_pwm_put(), also exist.
After being requested a PWM has to be configured using:
int pwm_config(struct pwm_device *pwm, int duty_ns, int period_ns);
To start/stop toggling the PWM output use pwm_enable()/pwm_disable().
Using PWMs with the sysfs interface
If CONFIG_SYSFS is enabled in your kernel configuration a simple sysfs
interface is provided to use the PWMs from userspace. It is exposed at
/sys/class/pwm/. Each probed PWM controller/chip will be exported as
pwmchipN, where N is the base of the PWM chip. Inside the directory you
will find:
npwm - The number of PWM channels this chip supports (read-only).
export - Exports a PWM channel for use with sysfs (write-only).
unexport - Unexports a PWM channel from sysfs (write-only).
The PWM channels are numbered using a per-chip index from 0 to npwm-1.
When a PWM channel is exported a pwmX directory will be created in the
pwmchipN directory it is associated with, where X is the number of the
channel that was exported. The following properties will then be available:
period - The total period of the PWM signal (read/write).
Value is in nanoseconds and is the sum of the active and inactive
time of the PWM.
duty_cycle - The active time of the PWM signal (read/write).
Value is in nanoseconds and must be less than the period.
polarity - Changes the polarity of the PWM signal (read/write).
Writes to this property only work if the PWM chip supports changing
the polarity. The polarity can only be changed if the PWM is not
enabled. Value is the string "normal" or "inversed".
enable - Enable/disable the PWM signal (read/write).
0 - disabled
1 - enabled
Implementing a PWM driver
Currently there are two ways to implement pwm drivers. Traditionally
there only has been the barebone API meaning that each driver has
to implement the pwm_*() functions itself. This means that it's impossible
to have multiple PWM drivers in the system. For this reason it's mandatory
for new drivers to use the generic PWM framework.
A new PWM controller/chip can be added using pwmchip_add() and removed
again with pwmchip_remove(). pwmchip_add() takes a filled in struct
pwm_chip as argument which provides a description of the PWM chip, the
number of PWM devices provider by the chip and the chip-specific
implementation of the supported PWM operations to the framework.
The PWM core list manipulations are protected by a mutex, so pwm_request()
and pwm_free() may not be called from an atomic context. Currently the
PWM core does not enforce any locking to pwm_enable(), pwm_disable() and
pwm_config(), so the calling context is currently driver specific. This
is an issue derived from the former barebone API and should be fixed soon.
Currently a PWM can only be configured with period_ns and duty_ns. For several
use cases freq_hz and duty_percent might be better. Instead of calculating
this in your driver please consider adding appropriate helpers to the framework.