Adding an MCP23017 16 port IO expander to Arduino or Esp8266 or Attiny85 or……..

After I made this expander module, a ready made module
with this chip has become available. So I actually would advice anybody needing a 16 bit expander, to buy that one rather than build it. The module will cost you abt 1.50 euro, while the individual chip may set you back a euro or so.

I am not claiming that what I am describing here is earth shattering or trailblazing, because in fact it is very simple and no doubt has been done by many already. But sometimes what is simple for the one, is still a question mark for the other, so here is quick ‘how-to’ of adding 16 I/O ports to your microprocessor. This is especially handy when working with a chip like the ESP8266 that has only limited I/O
The MCP23017 is an I2C enabled 16 I/O port chip. That means that you only need 2 pins (yes with Vcc and ground it makes 4) to control the chip and the added advantage is that you can share I2C with various other devices as well.

The 16 I/O lines are divided into an 8 I/O PORT A and an 8 I/O PORT B. Both can be used as input as well as output. The chip also has 2 configurable interrupts (that I will not be using). The physical layout of the chip makes it quite easy to use it on a piece of strip board.

The circuit (at right) is rather simple. At a last moment I decided to leave out the pull up resistors so it would be more flexible to use together with other I/O devices. The 3 Address pins A0-A2 determine the I2C address that ranges from 0x20 (all pins on ground) to 0x27 (all pins on Vcc).
The chip  can take a Vcc from 2.7V to 5V and this is perfect for 3.3 Volt devices as  the modern arduino’s and the ESP8266 range of boards.

Using the chip in a program is fairly easy. There are good libraries available, but it might help if you know how to program the chip without a library.
In my case I have all  address lines tied to ground and therefore my I2C address is 0x20. Suppose I want to use all PORT A lines as outputs. I do that  as follows:

Wire.write(0x00); // IODIRA register
Wire.write(0x00); // set entire PORT A to output

For PORT B that  is rather similar:

Wire.write(0x01); // IODIRB register
Wire.write(0x00); // set entire PORT B to output

If we then want to send a specific value ‘X’ to that PORT A, we do that as follows

Wire.write(0x12); // address port A
Wire.write(X);  // value to send

‘X’ ofcourse is a byte value that determines whether we set a specific port HIGH or LOW.
If for instance ‘X’is ‘0’ that means we write a LOW to all PORT A outputs. If it is 255 that means we write a HIGH to all PORT A outputs.
To determine what value to send, consider the 8 I/O lines of PORT A as a byte in which the individual bits determine HIGH or LOW.
So if we only want to make PORTA.0 HIGH and the rest LOW, we write a binary value of 0b00000001 =1 to the A register. If we want to make PORTA.0 and PORTA.2 HIGH and the rest LOW we write a binary value of 0b00000101 = 5.
For PORT B it is similar:

Wire.write(0x13); // address PORT B
Wire.write(X);  // value to send

If we want to use PORT B (or PORT A for that matter) as input, we do that as follows:

Wire.write(0x13); // address PORT B
Wire.requestFrom(0x20, 1); // request one byte of data
byte; // store incoming byte into "input"

The byte “input” will vary between 0 and 255, in which the individual bits determine the input on the corresponding IO line. So if ‘input’  reads ‘3’  which in binary is 0b00000011, that means that both IO line 0 and 1  were HIGH and the rest LOW

#include <Wire.h> // Wire.h
byte input=0;
void setup()
  Wire.begin(); // wake up I2C bus
  Wire.write(0x00); // IODIRA register
  Wire.write(0x00); // set entire PORT A as output
void loop()
  // read the inputs of bank B
  Wire.requestFrom(0x20, 1);;
  // now send the input data to bank A
  Wire.write(0x12); // address PORT A
  Wire.write(input);    // PORT A
  delay(100); // for debounce

That’s basically it if you want to do the adressing yourself. Using a library, such as the one from Adafruit, makes it much easier though as it has commands to write and read from individual IO lines. One of the example programs to read a single button, looks  for instance like this:

#include <Wire.h> // Wire.h
#include "Adafruit_MCP23017.h"

// Basic pin reading and pullup test for the MCP23017 I/O expander
// public domain!
// Connect pin #12 of the expander to Analog 5 (i2c clock)
// Connect pin #13 of the expander to Analog 4 (i2c data)
// Connect pins #15, 16 and 17 of the expander to ground (address selection)
// Connect pin #9 of the expander to 5V (power)
// Connect pin #10 of the expander to ground (common ground)
// Connect pin #18 through a ~10kohm resistor to 5V (reset pin, active low)
// Input #0 is on pin 21 so connect a button or switch from there to ground

Adafruit_MCP23017 mcp;

void setup() 
mcp.begin();      // use default address 0
mcp.pinMode(0, INPUT);
mcp.pullUp(0, HIGH);  // turn on a 100K pullup internally
pinMode(13, OUTPUT);  // use the p13 LED as debugging

void loop() {
// The LED will 'echo' the button
digitalWrite(13, mcp.digitalRead(0));

If you want to use more than one MCP23017 do that as follows:

#define addr1 0 //addr1 =A2 low , A1 low , A0 low =000
#define addr2 1 //addr 2 = A2 low , A1 low , A0 high =001 

Mind you that “0” is in fact 0x20 and ‘1’ is in fact 0x21


Calculating Sunrise and Sunset on Arduino (or other microcontroller)

Knowing the hours of sunset and sunrise may be handy in a variety of situations, an automated chicken coop door might be only one example.

There are several ways to get the proper times: a lookup table in EEPROM, the Timelord library or one of its successors, the Dusk2Dawn library, a rather complicated calculation including the Julian calender, or a fairly simple approximation that I will discuss here.

This method uses the average of the earliest and latest sunset and then for any given day  adds or subtracts a certain amount of time with a maximum of half  of the difference between the earliest and latest sunrise.

Rob Tillaert discusses the method here. It presumes that the sunrise time follows a (co)sinoidal function. I will try to visualize it with a simple example:

Say that on June 23 the earliest sunrise of the year occurs at 4am, and that the latest sunrise of the year occurs at 23 December at 6 am.

Then you know that on any other day the sunrise is between 4 and 6 am. If you take the average that is 5 am, then you know that every other sunrise that year is either 0-1 hr later than 5 am or 0-1 hr earlier than 5 am.

It is the latter that is captured in the formula:


  • avg is average sunrise time, in minutes since midnight
  • Δ the difference between the earliest and latest sunrise time
  • doy is the day of the year
  • the 8 is there because we start on the wintersolstice: 23 December is 8 days before jan 1
  • 58.09 is 365/2π. That is necessary because the cosinusfunction has max 2π as input.

If you live in a DST zone, the earliest sunrise wil be under DST, however you need the non-DST corrected time: the sun knows no DST. Calculate firstm then add DST later

For my location the earliest and latest sunrise are:

earliest sunrise is at 4.19 am
latest sunrise is at 8.51
in order to use them in our equation, we have to calculate them in minutes past midnight:
4.19= 4×60+19=259
8.51= 8*60+51=531
The average is (259+531)/2=395
the difference or delta is 531-259=272. We need half of that which is 137.
The equation then becomes:


To check the accuracy of the approximation, I plotted the actual sunrise times (blue curve) against the calculated sunrise time (red curve).

As it shows, the first half of the year is a perfect fit, the second half of the year seems to follow a more linear curve with the max deviation being 20 minutes, that may or may not be accurate enough for your project. With the aid of this curve though I could opt for a linear approximation for the 2nd half of the year.

For sunset we can practically use the same formula, be it that we now have to subtract the variable part rather than add it.
For my location the sunset is as follows:
latest: 22:07 =1327
Earliest: 16:27= 987
delta=240 ->170

That gives the following graph:

This time I didnt bother to enter all the  real sunset times, but it is clearly visible that there is a reasonable fit that could maybe be enhanced a bit by shifting it slightly more to left or decreasing the delta a bit. Again Red graph is the calculated sunset, the blue is the actual sunset. None of the graphs has been corrected for DST.

A procedure for the Arduino would look as follows:
Where DST is a byte indicating whether DST is active (1)  or not active (0).
The day of the year I pull from my RTC library but it can also be calculated as follows:
int(((month-1)*30.5)+dayOfMonth)  (that is an approximation though)

The sunrise and sunset are both given in minutes after midnight. The hour and minutes of the sunrise (and sunset) can be calculated by: