We report on an all-optical switch that operates at low light levels. It consists of laser beams counterpropagating through a warm rubidium vapor that induce an off-axis optical pattern. A switching laser beam causes this pattern to rotate even when the power in the switching beam is much lower than the power in the pattern. The observed switching energy density is very low, suggesting that the switch might operate at the single-photon level with system optimization. This approach opens the possibility of realizing a single-photon switch for quantum information networks and for improving transparent optical telecommunication networks.
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