Pulse-amplitude modulation, acronym PAM, is a form of signal modulation where the message information is encoded in the amplitude of a series of signal pulses.
Example: A two bit modulator (PAM-4) will take two bits at a time and will map the signal amplitude to one of four possible levels, for example −3 volts, −1 volt, 1 volt, and 3 volts.
Demodulation is performed by detecting the amplitude level of the carrier at every symbol period.
Pulse-amplitude modulation is widely used in baseband transmission of digital data, with non-baseband applications having been largely superseded by pulse-code modulation, and, more recently, by pulse-position modulation.
In particular, all telephone modems faster than 300 bit/s use quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). (QAM uses a two-dimensional constellation).
Usage of Pulse-amplitude modulation in Ethernet
Some versions of the widely popular Ethernet communication standard are a good example of PAM usage. In particular, the Fast Ethernet 100BASE-T2 medium (now defunct), running at 100 Mbit/s, utilizes 5 level PAM modulation (PAM-5) running at 25 megapulses/sec over two wire pairs. A special technique is used to reduce inter-symbol interference between the unshielded pairs. Current common 100mbit networking technology is 100BASE-TX which delivers 100mbit in each direction over a single twisted pair - one for each direction. Later, the gigabit Ethernet 1000BASE-T medium raised the bar to use 4 pairs of wire running each at 125 megapulses/sec to achieve 1000 Mbit/s data rates, still utilizing PAM-5 for each pair.
The IEEE 802.3an standard defines the wire-level modulation for 10GBASE-T as a Tomlinson-Harashima Precoded (THP) version of pulse-amplitude modulation with 16 discrete levels (PAM-16), encoded in a two-dimensional checkerboard pattern known as DSQ128. Several proposals were considered for wire-level modulation, including PAM with 12 discrete levels (PAM-12), 10 levels (PAM-10), or 8 levels (PAM-8), both with and without Tomlinson-Harashima Precoding (THP).
Usage in Photobiology
The concept is also utilized for the study of photosynthesis using a PAM fluorometer. This specialized instrument involves a spectrofluorometric measurement of the kinetics of fluorescence rise and decay in the light-harvesting antenna of thylakoid membranes, thus querying various aspects of the state of the photosystems under different environmental conditions.
Usage in Electronic Drivers for LED Lighting
Pulse Amplitude Modulation has also been developed for the control of Light Emitting Diodes especially for lighting applications. LED drivers based on the PAM technique offer improved energy efficiency over systems based upon other common driver modulation techniques such as Pulse Width Modulation as the forward current passing through an LED is relative to the intensity of the light output and the LED efficiency increases as the forward current is reduced.
Pulse Amplitude Modulation LED drivers are able to synchronize pulses across multiple LED channels to enable perfect colour matching. Due to the inherent nature of PAM in conjunction with the rapid switching speed of LEDs it is possible to use LED lighting as a means of wireless data transmission at high speed.
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