Optical threshold functions are a basic building block for all-optical signal processing, and this paper investigates a threshold function design reliant on a single active element. An optical threshold function based on nonlinear polarization rotation in a single semiconductor optical amplifier is proposed. It functions due to an induced modification of the birefringence of a semiconductor optical amplifier caused by an externally injected optical control signal. It is shown that switching from both the TE to the TM mode and vice versa is possible. The measured results are supported by simulation results based on the SOA rate equations. © 2007 Optical Society of America.