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An all-optical switch has been proposed based on photoinduced changes of an imaginary part of complex refractive index in a composite thin film made by silver and polymer thin films containing photochromic dye. Very fast switching on and switching off of a reading beam was demonstrated at the incident angle of guided wave mode using a photochromic spiropyran-doped polystyrene thin film and a ns pulsed laser as a writing beam. These responses were caused by the changes of an extinction coefficient due to photochromism. No applied power was required to hold the switched state. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.