Connect to the Dev Board I/O pins

The Dev Board provides access to several peripheral interfaces through the 40-pin expansion header, including GPIO, I2C, UART, and SPI. This page describes how you can interact with devices connected to these pins.

Because the Dev Board runs Mendel Linux, you can interact with the pins from user space using Linux interfaces such as device files (/dev) and sysfs files (/sys). There are also several API libraries you can use to program the peripherals connected to these pins. This page describes a few API options, including python-periphery, Adafruit Blinka, and libgpiod.

All I/O pins on the 40-pin header are powered by the 3.3 V power rail, with a programmable impedance of 40-255 ohms, and a max current of ~82 mA.

Figure 1. Default pin functions on the 40-pin header
Warning: When handling the I/O pins, be cautious to avoid electrostatic discharge or contact with conductive materials (metals). Failure to properly handle the board can result in a short circuit, electric shock, serious injury, death, fire, or damage to your board and other property.

Header pinout

Table 1 shows the header pinout, including the device or sysfs file for each pin, plus the character device numbers. For a pinout that includes the SoC pin names see the Dev Board datasheet instead. You can also see the header pinout from the command line by typing pinout on the Dev Board.

Note: All I/O pins have a 90k pull-down resistor inside the iMX8M SoC that is used by default during bootup, except for the I2C pins, which instead have a pull-up to 3.3 V on the SoM.
Caution: Do not connect a device that draws more than ~82 mA of power or you will brownout the system.
Table 1. Pinout for the Dev Board 40-pin header, with device file names and character device IDs (chip_number, line_number)
Chip, line Device path Pin function Pin Pin function Device path Chip, line
+3.3 V 1 2 +5 V
/dev/i2c-1 I2C2_SDA 3 4 +5 V
/dev/i2c-1 I2C2_SCL 5 6 Ground
/dev/ttymxc2 UART3_TXD 7 8 UART1_TXD /dev/ttymxc0
Ground 9 10 UART1_RXD /dev/ttymxc0
/dev/ttymxc2 UART3_RXD 11 12 SAI1_TXC
0, 6 /sys/class/gpio/gpio6 GPIO_P13 13 14 Ground
2, 0 /sys/class/pwm/pwmchip2/pwm0 PWM3 15 16 GPIO_P16 /sys/class/gpio/gpio73 2, 9
+3.3 V 17 18 GPIO_P18 /sys/class/gpio/gpio138 4, 10
/dev/spidev0 ECSPI1_MOSI 19 20 Ground
/dev/spidev0 ECSPI1_MISO 21 22 GPIO_P22 /sys/class/gpio/gpio140 4, 12
/dev/spidev0 ECSPI1_SCLK 23 24 ECSPI1_SS0 /dev/spidev0.0
Ground 25 26 ECSPI1_SS1 /dev/spidev0.1
/dev/i2c-2 I2C3_SDA 27 28 I2C3_SCL /dev/i2c-2
0, 7 /sys/class/gpio/gpio7 GPIO_P29 29 30 Ground
0, 8 /sys/class/gpio/gpio8 GPIO_P31 31 32 PWM1 /sys/class/pwm/pwmchip0/pwm0 0, 0
1, 0 /sys/class/pwm/pwmchip1/pwm0 PWM2 33 34 Ground
SSAI1_TXFS 35 36 GPIO_P36 /sys/class/gpio/gpio141 4, 13
2, 13 /sys/class/gpio/gpio77 GPIO_P37 37 38 SAI1_RXD0
Ground 39 40 SAI1_TXD0

For further information on the various interfaces, see the i.MX 8M Dual/8M QuadLite/8M Quad Applications Processors Reference Manual.

Program with python-periphery

The python-periphery library provides a generic Linux interface that's built atop the sysfs and character device interface, providing APIs to control GPIO, PWM, I2C, SPI, and UART pins.

You can install the library on your Dev Board as follows:

python3 -m pip install python-periphery

The Periphery library allows you to select a GPIO or PWM pin with a pin number. Other interfaces, such as I2C and UART pins must be specified using the pin's device path. See the following examples.

Note: The Synchronous Audio Interface (SAI) pins are not accessible using python-periphery. For details, see the i.MX 8M reference manual.


You can instantiate a GPIO object using either the sysfs path (deprecated) or the character device numbers.

The following code instantiates each GPIO pin as input using the character devices:

gpio_p13 = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip0", 6, "in")
gpio_p18 = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip4", 10, "in")
gpio_p22 = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip4", 12, "in")
gpio_p29 = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip0", 7, "in")
gpio_p31 = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip0", 8, "in")
gpio_p36 = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip4", 13, "in")

gpio_p16 = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip2", 9, "out")
gpio_p37 = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip2", 13, "out")
Note: GPIO_P16 and GPIO_P37 currently support only the "out" direction.

For example, here's how to turn on an LED when you push a button:

from periphery import GPIO

led = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip2", 13, "out")  # pin 37
button = GPIO("/dev/gpiochip4", 13, "in")  # pin 36

  while True:

For more examples, see the periphery GPIO documentation.


The following code shows how to instantiate each of the PWM pins with Periphery:

pwm1 = PWM(0, 0)
pwm2 = PWM(1, 0)
pwm3 = PWM(2, 0)

For usage examples, see the periphery PWM documentation.


The following code shows how to instantiate each of the I2C ports with Periphery:

i2c2 = I2C("/dev/i2c-1")
i2c3 = I2C("/dev/i2c-2")

For usage examples, see the periphery I2C documentation.


The following code shows how to instantiate each of the SPI ports with Periphery:

# SPI1, SS0, Mode 0, 10MHz
spi1_0 = SPI("/dev/spidev0.0", 0, 10000000)
# SPI1, SS1, Mode 0, 10MHz
spi1_1 = SPI("/dev/spidev0.1", 0, 10000000)

For usage examples, see the periphery SPI documentation.

Help! If you receive a Permission denied error when trying to access the SPI device, it should be fixed if you run the following:
sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get dist-upgrade

sudo reboot now


The following code shows how to instantiate each of the UART ports with Periphery:

# UART1, 115200 baud
uart1 = Serial("/dev/ttymxc0", 115200)
# UART3, 9600 baud
uart3 = Serial("/dev/ttymxc2", 9600)
Caution: UART1 is shared with the Linux serial console. To use the UART1 port in your application, you must disable the serial console with the following command:
systemctl stop serial-getty@ttymxc0.service

For usage examples, see the periphery Serial documentation.

Program with Adafruit Blinka

The Blinka library not only offers a simple API for GPIO, PWM, I2C, and SPI, but also provides compatibility with a long list of sensor libraries built for CircuitPython. That means you can reuse CircuitPython code for peripherals that was originally used on microcontrollers or other boards such as Raspberry Pi.

To get started, install Blinka and libgpiod on your Dev Board Mini as follows:

sudo apt-get install python3-libgpiod

python3 -m pip install adafruit-blinka

Then you can turn on an LED when you push a button as follows (notice this uses pin names from the pinout above):

import board
import digitalio

led = digitalio.DigitalInOut(board.GPIO_P37)  # pin 37
led.direction = digitalio.Direction.OUTPUT

button = digitalio.DigitalInOut(board.GPIO_P36)  # pin 36
button.direction = digitalio.Direction.INPUT

  while True:
    led.value = button.value
  led.value = False

For more information, including example code using I2C and SPI, see the Adafruit guide for CircuitPython libraries on Coral. But we suggest you skip their setup guide and install Blinka as shown above. Also check out the Blinka API reference.

Program GPIOs with libgpiod

You can also interact with the GPIO pins using the libgpiod library, which provides both C++ and Python API bindings. But libgpiod is for GPIOs only, not any digital protocols. (The Blinka library uses libgpiod as its implementation for GPIOs.)

There's currently no online API docs for libgpiod, but the source code is fully documented. If you clone the repo, you can build C++ docs with Doxygen. For Python, you can install the libgpiod package and print the API docs as follows:

sudo apt-get install python3-libgpiod

python3 -c 'import gpiod; help(gpiod)'

Then you can turn on an LED when you push a button as follows:

import gpiod

CONSUMER = "led-demo"
chip2 = gpiod.Chip("2", gpiod.Chip.OPEN_BY_NUMBER)
chip4 = gpiod.Chip("4", gpiod.Chip.OPEN_BY_NUMBER)

led = chip2.get_line(13)  # pin 37
led.request(consumer=CONSUMER, type=gpiod.LINE_REQ_DIR_OUT, default_vals=[0])
button = chip4.get_line(13)  # pin 36
button.request(consumer=CONSUMER, type=gpiod.LINE_REQ_DIR_IN)

  while True: