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  • optical bistability

The phenomenon that can render an optical resonator the equivalent of a semiconductor flip-flop. A bistable device will remain stable in two optical states, one of high transmission and another of low transmission, depending upon the intensity of the light passing through it. In the low transmission state, the path length through the material, which is placed between two partially reflecting mirrors, results in refraction that dims the exiting beam. In the high transmission state, created by increasing the input light's intensity, the path length is changed to a whole number of wavelengths by the nonlinear material's refraction properties and, as a result, the waves are in phase in the resonator and the output light is brighter.
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