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An optical differentiator operation is demonstrated using a GaAs/AlAs short‐period superlattice near an optical absorption band edge. This operation is clearly explained by a rapid collapse of Wannier–Stark localization due to electric field screening by photogenerated space charges, because the screening causes a positive feedback loop between restoration of blueshifted wavelength of absorption band edge to the red side and an increase in optical absorption which causes an additional field screening. © 1994 American Institute of Physics.