I have searched the web and found that optical switches are activated either through mechanical or electro/magnetics. Making them sort of Optomechanical or optoelectronic switches.

Lets exclude electromagnetically induced transparent switches. Are there other solid state based optical switches at are fully operated using lasers only?

I would be grateful if you could include link and/or references.


The optical switches I am after typically receives a laser at point A then output it at point B, when it is activated via electrical means (or magnetic), it cuts the signal output to point B. So instead of being switched on and off by electric or magnetic means, are there solid state based optical switches that are switched on and off by Laser?

  • $\begingroup$ Please clarify: are you trying to switch the laser on/off via some signal or are trying to use the laser to switch something else on/off, such as the current in a circuit? $\endgroup$
    – Jason A
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 4:16
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, I have now updated my query. :) $\endgroup$
    – Jones G
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 7:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Saturable absorbers - do they suit your needs? $\endgroup$
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Aug 26, 2015 at 13:01

2 Answers 2


A sum-frequency system with a "hot" mirror could act something like an optical switch:

enter image description here

Unlike a switch, the output frequency will be different from either of the inputs.

Edit: For an example of sum-frequency generation crystals see:

Thorlabs Introduction To Periodically Poled Lithium Niobate (PPLN) (PDF)

Thorlabs also sells hot mirrors.

  • $\begingroup$ I would like to ask more about a specific materials used for summing crystal and "hot" mirror. $\endgroup$
    – Jones G
    Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 4:31

An acousto-optical modulator can act as an optical switch, with the switching controlled by the application of radiofrequency power. An AOM operates by setting up a compression wave in a crystal from which the light diffracts. Light which is diffracted into at least the first order can then be used for whatever you like.

However, there are some caveats -- it's not possible to diffract 100% of the light into one of the orders -- 40-50% would be quite good. When the switch is "off", there is still a small amount of power that leaks through, and the AOM also shifts the frequency of the laser by a small amount (the RF frequency).

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acousto-optic_modulator

[2] - https://www.rp-photonics.com/acousto_optic_modulators.html


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