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2

Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation


References
1. A. Siegman, Lasers (University Science Boks, Mill Valley, 1986), Chapters 16,
17, 19.
2. P. W. Milonni and J. H. Eberly (John Wiley and Sons, Inc., Hoboken, NJ,
2010), Chapter 7.
For monochromatic
1
elds E(r, t) = E(r)e
it
, where E(r) is any of the Cartesian
components of the complex vector eld, the corresponding atomic response can be
written as P
at
=
at
()e
it
. To avoid proliferation of symbols, we have denoted
the space dependent part by the same symbol as the total eld. Using this in the
wave equation (1.10), we nd that the space dependent part E(r) satises
_

2
+
2
(1 +
at
+ i/)

E(r) = 0 . (1.10*)
For
at
= 0 = we get the homogeneous wave equation
_

2
+
2

E
o
(r) = 0 , (2.1)
with a solution E(r) = E
o
e
ikr
, where the magnitude of the propagation constant is
(real and ) given by
k =

=
n
c
, (2.2)
and n is the refractive index of the host medium. Combining this space dependence
with the time dependence e
it
, we see that the solution E(r, t) = E
o
e
i(krt)
, rep-
resents a plane wave propagating in the direction = k/|k| in a loss-free medium.
We now explore beam like solutions of the wave equation.
Using this, we write the solution to the full wave equation (1.10*) as E(r) =
E
o
(r)e
ikr
, which has a space dependent amplitude E
o
(r) that satises the equation
_

2
+ k
2
(
at
+ i/)

E(r) = 0 . (2.3)
1
We can always decompose a time-dependent eld into its Fourier frequency components each with
time dependence of the form e
it
60 Laser Physics
2.1 Gaussian Beams
Beam-like solutions should have the following characteristics:
(i) a predominant direction of propagation, and
(ii) a nite transverse cross-section (nite extent in directions perpendicular to
the direction of propagation).
Finite
transverse size
Transverse size
changes slowly
Predominant direction
of propagation
z
x
y
FIGURE 2.1
A beam has a dominant direction of propagation and nite extent in directions
perpendicular to the direction of propagation.
Since a beam has nite transverse size, wave diraction will cause its cross-section
to change as the beam propagates. However, we can still speak of a predominant
direction of propagation if the diractive change of its cross-section is not too rapid
(to be made more precise shortly) as the beam propagates. Let us now see how we
can construct a solution with these characteristics.
From the introduction we recall that a monochromatic plane wave propagating
in the z-direction will have the form
E(r) = E
o
e
i(kzt)
, (2.4)
where the propagation constant k = n/c =
2n

. Using this plane wave solution


as a guide, we now look for solutions that correspond to a superposition of plane
waves propagating in directions making small angles with the z-axis, we can write
the propagation vectors as k = e
x
k
x
+e
y
k
y
+e
z
k
z
with k
2
k
2
x
+k
2
y
+k
2
z
= n
2

2
/c
2
and k
x
, k
y
k, k
z
. For such elds k
z

_
k
2
k
2
x
k
2
y
k (k
2
x
+k
2
y
)/2k
2
and we
can write the space dependent part of the eld as
E(r) =
1
(2)
2
__
dk
x
dk
y

E(k
x
, k
y
)e
ik
x
x+ik
y
y+ik
z
z
,
=
e
ikz
(2)
2
__
dk
x
dk
y

E(k
x
, k
y
)e
ik
x
x+ik
y
yi(k
2
x
+k
2
y
)z/2k
,
e
ikz
E
o
(r) . (2.5)
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 61
The amplitude |

E(k
x
, k
y
)| of o-axis plane wave components decreases rapidly for
increasing values of |k
x
|, |k
y
|. This means the dominant direction of beam propa-
gation is along the zaxis. Comparing Eq. (2.5) with the expression for a plane
wave (2.4), we notice that unlike a plane wave, the eld amplitude E
o
for a paraxial
beam depends on spatial coordinates. Using this in Eq. (1.10*), we nd that the
equation satised by E
o
(r) is
_

+

2
z
2
+ 2ik

z
+ k
2
(
at
+ i/)
_
E
o
(r) = 0 , (2.6a)
where
2

=

2
x
2
+

2
y
2
. (2.6b)
Since the amplitude

E(k
x
, k
y
) is dominated by small values of k
x
and k
y
, eld
amplitude E
o
varies slowly with z. This means the following inequalities hold:
1
k

E
o
z

=

2

E
o
z

|E
o
| , (2.7a)
1
k

2
E
o
z
2

=

2

z
E
o
z

E
o
z

. (2.7b)
The rst inequality says that the change in beam prole over distances of the order
of a few wavelengths

E
o
(r)
z

are a small fraction of |E


o
(r)|. The second inequality
states that the rate at which the beam prole evolves does not signicantly change
over distances of the order of a few wavelengths,

z
E
o
(r)
z

E
o
(r)
z

. In view of
the inequalities (2.7), the dominant variation of E
o
with z in Eq.(2.6) is described
by the rst derivative term. Neglecting the
2
E
o
(r)/z
2
term compared to the
E
o
(r)/z term in Eq. (2.6), we nd that the equation governing the variation of
E
o
(r) with z is
E
o
(r)
z
=
i
2k

E
o
(r) + i
k
at
2
E
o
(r)
k
2
E
o
(r) ,
or
E
o
(r)
z
=
i
2k

E
o
(r) + i
k

at
2
E
o
(r)
k
2
_

at
_
E
o
(r) . (2.8)
This is one of the basic equations of this course, which tells us that the eld ampli-
tude changes slowly with z due to (i) diraction (represented by the
2

term), (ii)
interaction with the atomic medium resulting in a phase shift (represented by the

at
term), and (iii) dissipation of electromagnetic energy (represented by the con-
ductivity term) because of Joules heating and absorption by the atoms (represented
by the

at
term).
Neglecting the loss and atomic interaction terms in Eq. (2.8) we nd that the
envelop function E
o
(r) satises
_

2
x
2
+

2
y
2
+ 2ik

z
_
E
o
(r) = 0 . (2.9)
62 Laser Physics
This equation is known as the paraxial wave equation. By writing this equation as
E
o
(r)
z
=
i
2k
_

2
E
o
(r)
x
2
+

2
E
o
(r)
y
2
_
, (2.10)
we see that this equation expresses the fact that the beam prole changes with
propagation because of diraction (due to nite extent in transverse dimensions).
If the transverse beam prole does not depend on spatial coordinates, we recover
the plane wave result E
o
= const.
2.1.1 Fundamental Gaussian Solution
The paraxial wave equation has many known solutions. These will be introduced
in due course. The simplest of these has circular cylindrical symmetry about the
direction of propagation and is given by ( =
_
x
2
+ y
2
)
E
o
(, z) = A
_
w
0
w(z)
_
e
i
k
2
2q(z)
i(z)
(2.11a)
w(z) = w
0
_
1 + (z/z
R
)
2
(2.11b)
z
R
=
1
2
kw
2
0
=
w
2
0
n

(2.11c)
1
q(z)
=
1
R(z)
+ i
2
kw
2
(z)
(2.11d)
R(z) = z +
z
2
R
z
= z
_
1 +
z
2
R
z
2
_
(2.11e)
(z) = tan
1
_
z
z
R
_
(2.11f)
To see the physical meaning of various terms in this equation, let us rst consider
the time averaged intensity I(, z)
1
2

0
ncEE

given by
I(, z) = I
0
_
w
0
w(z)
_
2
exp
_

2
2
w
2
(z)
_
, (2.12)
where I
0
=
1
2

0
nc|A|
2
. This has the form of a gaussian distribution in the variable
. For this reason this beam is called a gaussian beam. In terms of the total power
of the beam
P =
_
2
0
d
_

0
dI(, z) = I
0
w
2
0
2
1
4
= I
o
w
2
o
2
(2.13)
we can express the peak intensity I
o
= 2P/w
2
o
and the intensity as
I(, z) =
2P
w
2
(z)
e
2
2
/w
2
(z)
. (2.14)
Figure (2.2) shows the intensity prole of the beam as a function of distance
(along the xaxis) measured from the zaxis. The intensity attains its peak value
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 63
0
0.5
1
x/w
1/e
1/e
2
=w
=w/2
2
equivalent
"top hat" beam
I/I
max
2 1 0 1 2
FIGURE 2.2
Intensity prole of a circular symmetric gaussian beam along the x (or y) axis
( = x).
I
max
= 2P/w
2
(z) at the center of the beam ( = 0) and falls to 1/e
2
14% of
this value when = w(z). w(z) is referred to as the 1/e
2
intensity radius or simply
as beam spot size (radius). The intensity of a gaussian beam falls o rapidly as
increases beyond the spot radius w(z).
The form of the peak intensity 2P/w
2
(z) suggests another measure of beam size.
If we were to imagine a circular cylindrical beam of uniform intensity and the same
total power as the Gaussian beam, the radius of such a beam will be
w
TH
= w/

2 . (2.15)
Such a beam with uniform intensity over its cross sectional area is referred to as a
top hat beam because the intensity distribution of such a beam has the shape of
a top hat [See Fig. (2.2)]. We may also refer to w
TH
= w/

2 as the 1/e intensity


radius.
There are other measures of beam size. For example, we can use a criterion based
on power the transmitted by an aperture. A circular aperture of radius a placed at
the center of a gaussian beam will transmit a fraction of power
P
T
P
=
2
w
2
_
2
0
d
_
a
0
de
(2
2
/w
2
)
= 1 e
(2a
2
/w
2
)
. (2.16)
This fraction as a function of aperture radius is plotted in Fig. 2.3.
An aperture of radius w
TH
will transmit only 63% power while an aperture of
radius w will transmit 86% power. An aperture of radius w/2 will pass 99%
64 Laser Physics
0
0.5
1
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3
a/w
63%
86%
99%
P
T
P
a

=

w
a

=

w
/
2
a

=
2
.
3
w
a

=

w
/

2
R
i
p
p
l
e

1
7
%
R
i
p
p
l
e

1
%
FIGURE 2.3
Fractional power of a gaussian beam transmitted by a circular aperture of radius
centered on the beam.
power. We nd that considerably larger apertures than those with radius w are
needed to pass the power gaussian beam of spot size w.
Beyond optimizing power transmission of a gaussian beam, we may also want to
minimize diraction ripples which will signicantly distort the intensity distribu-
tion of the transmitted beam. Such ripples will be present whenever sharp edged
circular apertures are used even if they pass a large fraction of the total power. A
sharp circular aperture of radius w/2, which passes 99% of the total power, will
cause ripples with intensity variations of 17% in the near eld and a peak intensity
reduction of the same amount in the far eld. To keep diraction ripples down to
1% in the beam transmitted by a sharp edged circular aperture we must employ an
aperture of radius 2.3w. [Siegman, Chapter 18].
From the preceding discussion, it is clear that w(z) is a measure of the transverse
size of the beam, which of course, varies as the beam propagates. Figure (2.4) shows
the variation of spot size as a function of the propagation distance z measured from
the beam waist which is dened to be the plane where the spot size has its
minimum value w
0
. In writing the expression for beam spot size(2.11b) have chosen
this plane to be the z = 0-plane. An examination of Eqs. (2.11a)-(2.11f)shows that
a gaussian beam is uniquely determined by the location of its waist and spot size
w
o
.
A gaussian beam spreads in a nonlinear fashion during its propagation. Near the
waist the spread is slow so that the beam remains collimated. Far from the waist
the beam spreads linearly with distance from the waist. The characteristic distance
the beams travels from the waist before the spot size increase to

2w
o
(or the beam
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 65
w
o
z
w(z)
Confocal parameter b =2z
R
Rayleigh range z
R
waist z= 0
2w
o
Rayleigh range z
R
2w
o
FIGURE 2.4
Variation of spot size with propagation near beam waist.
spot area doubles) is
z
R
= kw
2
0
/2 =
nw
2
0

. (2.17)
This distance z
R
is called the Rayleigh range. Notice that there are two points
located on the opposite sides of the beam waist where the spot size has the value

2w
o
. The distance between these

2w
o
spot size points is the confocal parameter
b = 2z
R
=
2nw
2
0

. (2.18)
Confocal parameter b is a measure of the distance over which a beam may be
considered to have uniform cross-section near its waist. It plays an important role
in the theory of laser resonators which will be discussed shortly.
In the far eld z z
R
the spot size grows linearly with z as [see Fig. (2.20)]
w(z) w
0
z
z
R
. (2.19)
The far eld divergence angle of the beam may be dened by the ratio of the far
eld spot size to the distance
=
w(z)
z
=
w
0
z
R
=

nw
0
. (2.20)
For paraxial approximation to be good we require < 1/ which translates to
minimum spot size w
0
> /n. From the dependence of the confocal parameter [Eq.
(2.18)] and the beam divergence angle [Eq. (2.20)] on w
0
we see that a beams with
smaller waist spot size will remain collimated over shorter distances and will spread
more rapidly in the far zone.
The origin of gaussian beam divergence is diraction, which arises whenever a
wave is conned to a nite transverse size. In fact, the far eld beam divergence
66 Laser Physics
w
o
z
0
w(z)
Beam waist
z=0
=/nw

FIGURE 2.5
Far eld divergence of a gaussian beam.
angle is of the same order as the angle associated with the Fraunhofer (far eld)
diraction of a plane wave by a circular aperture of radius a w
o

D
= 0.61

na
. (2.21)
A Gaussian laser beam thus has the smallest possible divergence allowed by Maxwells
equations. Since diractive phenomena cannot be described by ray optics, wave op-
tics must always be used when dealing with gaussian beams.
The parameter R(z) [Eq.(2.11e)] is the radius of curvature of the very nearly
spherical phase fronts at z. This can be seen by writing the Gaussian beam
E
o
(, z)e
i(kzt)
[Eq.(2.11a)] in the limit z >> z
R
E(r, t) =
Ae
i(z)
_
1 + z
2
/z
2
R
e

2
/w
2
(z)
e
ik(z+

2
2R(z)
)
e
it
iAz
R
e

2
/w
2
(z)
_
1
z
e
ik(z+

2
2z
)
_
e
it
, (2.22)
where we have used the approximation
R(z) = z
_
1 + z
2
R
/z
2
_
z , z z
R
. (2.23)
Let us compare it with a spherical wave emitted by a point source on the z-axis at
z = 0. Near the zaxis this wave has the form
E
s
(r, t) = E
o
e
i(krt)
r
= E
o
e
ik

2
+z
2
_

2
+ z
2
e
it
E
o
_
_
e
ik(z+

2
2z
)
z
_
_
e
it
,
2
z
2
. (2.24)
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 67
z
R
z
R
R(z)
b
b
z
0
FIGURE 2.6
Variation of the radius of curvature of a gaussian beam with distance.
A comparison of Eqs. (2.22) and (2.24) shows that a gaussian beam has the form
of a spherical wave with center of curvature located at the beam waist z = 0. In
fact for points close to the z axis such that
2
w
2
(z), Eq. (2.22), has exactly
the form of a spherical wave with spherical wavefronts
kz +
k
2
2z
k
_

2
+ z
2
kr = const . (2.25)
It is clear that R(z) is the radius of curvature of constant phase surfaces which
coincide with wavefronts near the zaxis. The sign of R is chosen according to
the convention used in discussing ABCD matrices; that is, R(z) is negative for a
converging beam (center of curvature lies in front of the wavefront) and positive for
a diverging beam (center of curvature lies behind the wavefront).
The radius of curvature R(z) of the wavefronts of a gaussian beam has the fol-
lowing limiting forms
R(z) =
_

_
|z| << z
R
2z
R
b z = z
R
z |z| >> z
R
(2.26)
Its variation with propagation distance z measured from the waist is shown in
Figs. (2.6) and (2.7). The wavefront is at or planar at the waist corresponding to
an innite radius of curvature. As the beam propagates away from the waist the
wavefronts become curved, and the radius of curvature drops until z = z
R
. Beyond
z = z
R
the radius of curvature increases again as R(z) z. The minimum radius
of curvature occurs for the wavefront at z = z
R
with the radius of curvature equal
68 Laser Physics
to the confocal parameter R = 2z
R
= b. The center of curvature for the wavefront
at z = z
R
is located at z = z
R
and the center of curvature of the wavefront at
z = z
R
is located at z = z
R
as seen in Fig. (2.7). The curved wavefronts at
z = z
R
have special signicance in stable resonator theory. If these wavefronts
are replaced by two mirrors with matching radii of curvature, we will form a stable
resonator. This resonator will have mirrors of radius of curvature R and spacing L
with R = b = 2z
R
= L. Since the focal length of a mirror of radius R is f = R/2,
the focal points of these two mirrors will coincide at the center of the resonator.
The two mirrors then form a symmetric confocal resonator, thus giving rise to the
confocal parameter b = 2z
R
.
R=b
R
R=b
z =z
R
Confocal parameter b
z =z
R
z =0
S
S
FIGURE 2.7
Wavefronts and ray trajectories in the waist region for a wave moving from left
to right. Far from the beam waist the wavefronts are part of spheres with center
of curvature at the center of the waist. The hyperbolas are rays indicating the
direction of energy ow in a gaussian beam.
The direction of energy ow in a gaussian beam is indicated in Figure (2.7) for a
gaussian beam traveling from left to right. Energy is transported along rays which
are the directed curves

_
x
2
+ y
2
=
0
_
1 + z
2
/z
2
R
, (2.27)
where
0
is the ray coordinate at the waist. The Poynting vector - S which describes
the ow of energy (energy ux density, W/m
2
) is tangential to the rays. To the left
of the waist, Poynting vector has a small radial component pointing toward the axis
corresponding to a converging (focusing) beam. To the right of the waist it has a
small radial component pointing away from the axis corresponding to a diverging
(defocusing) beam. Energy ow across the waist is from left to right as in a plane
wave moving in the z-direction.
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 69
Finally, we note that in passing the waist the phase angle (z) [Eq. (2.11f)]
changes from /2 (far to the left of the waist) to /2 (far to the right). Thus
the fundamental gaussian beam acquires an extra phase of in passing through its
focal region. This phase shift, called the Guoy phase shift, is in fact a special case
of the Guoy eect which says that a wave with a reasonably simple cross-section
will acquire an extra phase shift of in passing through a focal region. Higher
order gaussian beams acquire larger Guoy phase shifts on account of their more
complicated cross-section.
Refrences
Deviations from paraxial theory become signicant for beams that are focused so tightly
that beam divergence angles exceed > 1/. Corrections to these solutions are discussed
in M. Lax, W. H. Louisell, and W. B. McKnight, From Maxwell to paraxial optics, Phys.
Rev. A 11, 1365 (1975); L. W. Davis, Theory of electromagnetic beams, Phys. Rev. A 19,
1177 (1975); G. P. Agarwal and D. N. Pattanayak, Gaussian beam propagation beyond the
paraxial approximation, J. Opt. Soc. Am. 69, 575 (1979).
A paper dealing with Gaussian beam solution of Maxwells equations including corrections
to paraxial theory and describing experimental observations of these corrections is W. L.
Erikson and S. Singh, Polarization properties of Maxwell-Gaussian beams, Phys. Rev. E
49, 5778 (1994).
2.2 ABCD Law for Gaussian Beams
During the propagation of a gaussian beam in a homogeneous medium beam spot
size w(z) and the radius of curvature of phase front R(z) change according to Eqs.
(2.11b) and (2.11e) but the beam retains its gaussian shape. We have seen that a
geometrical ray picture fails to account for this evolution.
The evolution of R(z) and w(z) during propagation is equivalent to an evolution of
the complex beam parameter q(z). We have seen that geometric ray picture cannot
be used to describe the propagation of a gaussian beam. It turns out, however, that
gaussian beam propagation is described in terms of a very simple propagation law
for the q-parameter of a gaussian wave.
When a gaussian beam passes through an optical element whose ray matrix is
given by (ABCD), its q-parameter changes. Complex beam parameter q
o
just after
the beam emerges from the optical element is related to the complex parameter q
i
just before the beam enters the optical element by
q
o
=
q
i
A + B
q
i
C + D
(2.28)
This important relation is known as the ABCD law of a gaussian beam. This
relation follows from paraxial diraction theory (paraxial wave equation)
70 Laser Physics
References
1. H. Kogelnik and T. Li, Laser Beams and Resonators, Proc. of IEEE 54,
1312-1329 (1966).
2. A. Siegman, Lasers (University Science Books, Mill Valley, CA 1986), Chapter
20.
In using this relation we will nd it convenient to rewrite Eq. (2.11d) as
q(z) = z iz
R
= distance from the waist i Rayleigh range of the beam. (2.29)
Example 1: Gaussian beam propagation in a homogeneous medium starting at its
waist.
Let us take the beam waist location to be the z = 0 plane. At the waist, the
wavefronts are planar, so that the complex beam parameter is pure imaginary given
by
q
i
= iz
R
= i
w
2
0

. (2.30)
The matrix for free propagation over a distance z in a homogeneous medium is

A B
C D

1 z
0 1

. (2.31)
Using this matrix, we nd that the beam parameter at a distance z from the waist
will be given by
q(z) =
q
i
A+B
q
i
C +D
= q
i
+z
or
1
q(z)

1
R(z)
+i
2
kw
2
(z)
=
1
q
i
+z
=
1
iz
R
+z
=
iz
R
+z
z
2
R
+z
2
. (2.32)
Equating the real and imaginary parts from the two sides, we obtain the famil-
iar expressions [
1
2
kw
2
=
1
2
kw
2
0
(w/w
0
)
2
= z
R
(w/w
0
)
2
] for the wavefront radius of
curvature and spot size
R(z) =
z
2
+z
2
R
z
= z +
z
2
R
z
, (2.33a)
w(z) = w
0

z
2
R
+z
2
z
2
R
= w
0

1 +
z
2
z
2
R
. (2.33b)
Example 2: Passage of a gaussian beam through a lens.
The ray transfer matrix for the lens is

A B
C D

1 0

1
f
1

. (2.34)
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 71
Let q
1
be the incident beam parameter just before the lens. Then the output beam
parameter q
2
(just after the lens) is given by
q
2
=
q
1
A+B
q
1
C +D
=
q
1
(q
1
/f) + 1
,
or
1
q
2
=
1
f
+
1
q
1
,
or
1
R
2
(z)
+i
2
kw
2
2
=
1
f
+
1
R
1
(z)
+i
2
kw
2
1
. (2.35)
Equating the real and imaginary parts on the two sides gives
1
R
2
=
1
R
1

1
f
, (2.36a)
w
2
= w
1
. (2.36b)
Thus, a lens changes the curvature of the phase front but leaves the spot size
unaected. A related problem is the focusing of a gaussian beam by a mirror of
focal length f = R/2.
2.2.1 Gaussian Beam Focusing
Consider a gaussian beam incident from left on a lens of focal length f. Let the
incident beam waist be located a distance d
1
from the lens and let the spot radius
there be w
01
. After passing through the lens the beam has a new waist at d
2
and
spot size w
02
at the new waist. We are interested in nding d
2
and w
02
.
The ray transfer matrix for beam passage from the rst waist to the second waist
is

A B
C D

1 d
2
0 1

1 0

1
f
1

1 d
1
0 1

1
d
2
f
d
1
+d
2

d
1
d
2
f

1
f
1
d
1
f

(2.37)
The complex beam parameter q
2
at the second waist is then given by
q
2
=
Aq
1
+B
Cq
1
+D
=
(1 d
2
/f)q
1
+ (d
1
+d
2
d
1
d
2
/f)
q
1
/f + (1 d
1
/f)
, (2.38)
where q
1
is the beam parameter at the rst waist. At the two waists, the complex
beam parameters are pure imaginary,
q
1
= iz
R1
inw
2
01
/, q
2
= iz
R2
inw
2
02
/. (2.39)
Using these in the transformation equation (2.38) we obtain
iz
R2
=
iz
R1
A+B
iz
R1
C +D
=
(iz
R1
A+B)(iz
R1
A+B)
(z
R1
C)
2
+D
2
=
iz
R1
(AD BC) + (z
2
R1
AC +BD)
(z
R1
C)
2
+D
2
(2.40)
72 Laser Physics
Equating the real an imaginary parts of the expression on the right hand side to
the corresponding terms on the left we nd
Re[q
2
] 0 =
z
2
R1
AC +BD
(z
R1
C)
2
+D
2
, (2.41a)
Im[q
2
] z
R2
=
z
R1
(AD BC)
(z
R1
C)
2
+D
2
. (2.41b)
Using the fact ADBC = 1 and z
0i
= nw
2
0i
/ we nd from Eq. (2.41b) that the
new waist spot size is given by
w
2
02
=
w
2
01
(z
R1
/f)
2
+ (1 d
1
/f)
2
=

f
nw
01

2
1
1 + (f/z
R1
)
2
(1 d
1
/f)
2
. (2.42)
From Eq. (2.41a) we nd, since the denominator is not zero, z
2
R1
AC + BD = 0,
which leads us to
z
2
R1

1
d
2
f

1
f

d
1
+d
2

d
1
d
2
f

1
d
1
f

= 0 . (2.43)
On simplifying and solving this equation for d
2
we obtain
d
2
=
z
2
R1
/f d
1
(1 d
1
/f)
(z
R1
/f)
2
+ (1 d
1
/f)
2
= f

1
(1 d
1
/f)
(z
R1
/f)
2
+ (1 d
1
/f)
2

. (2.44)
A plot of exit waist position d
2
/f as a function of the incident waist position d
1
/f
is shown in Figure (2.8). To see the variation of the exit waist spot size with d
1
,
we nd it is convenient to plot the Rayleigh range z
R2
/f = w
2
02
/f which is a
measure of the spot size in units of f as a function of d
1
/f. This is shown in Fig.
(2.9).
Let us compare these results with the predictions of geometrical optics. If we
consider the outgoing beam waist as the image of the incident beam waist, then
geometrical optics gives the location of new beam waist d
2
and spot size w
o2
to be
d
2
=
fd
1
d
1
f
= f

1
1
1 d
1
/f

(2.45)
w
2
o2
= w
2
01

d
2
d
1

2
=
w
2
01
(1 d
1
/f)
2
(2.46)
The prediction of geometrical optics for the second beam waist location d
2
is shown
by the dashed curve in Fig.(2.8). We see that gaussian beam and geometrical optics
predictions agree when |d
1
/f| 1 and z
R1
/f 1, that is, when the lens is located
in the far zone of the incident beam waist. The disagreement between the two
predictions is complete as d
1
f. In this case, geometrical optics predicts d
2

and w
2
02
, whereas gaussian beam results are
d
2
f and w
2
02
=

f
nw
01

2
. (2.47)
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 73

2
/

1
/

R1
=0.4
1
2.5
Geometrical optics
FIGURE 2.8
Beam waist location d
2
/f after a gaussian beam passes through a positive lens of
focal length f as a function of the incident beam waist location d
1
/f for dierent
values of the ratio z
R1
/f.
A noteworthy features of Fig. 2.8 is that the distance d
2
for the second waist from
the lens has a maximum. The maximum occurs for d
1
/f 1.5. Similarly, the
spot size for a gaussian beam after passing through has a nite maximum which is
attained for d
1
/f 1.
A question of practical importance when discussing applications such as laser
traps, cutting, drilling, and laser fusion is how small focal spots are possible to
boost power density. For a given focal length f, we can reduce the size of w
02
by
making z
R1
/f large and, since z
R1
= nw
2
01
/, this means we need to make w
01
as large as possible. But w
01
cannot be larger than the lens aperture if signicant
beam power loss is to be avoided and may need to be even smaller if we allow for
beam spreading from the rst waist to the lens. One way to address this is to
collimate the incident beam with a confocal parameter many focal lengths long and
place the lens in the near zone so that the input beam spot size does not change
signicantly from the rst beam waist to the lens. Under these conditions w
01
is
limited by the lens aperture. If we want the lens to transmit 99% of the incident
power, then incident beam spot radius w
01
must satisfy the condition
1
2
w
01
=
1
2
D, (2.48)
74 Laser Physics

=0.4

FIGURE 2.9
Gaussian beam spot size in terms of Rayleigh range after focusing by the lens of
focal length f for z
R1
/f = 0.4, 1, 2.5. Geometrical optics predictions are shown by
grey curves for z
R1
/f = 0.4 and 2.5. The dashed curve is the gaussian beam result
for z
R1
/f = 1.
where D is the lens aperture (diameter). Under these conditions (z
R1
/f 1 and
the constraint w
01
= D), Eq. (2.42) leads to the following expression for the focal
spot radius (spot size at the second waist)
w
02
=
f
nw
01
=

n
f
D
=

n
(f
#
) , (2.49)
where f
#
is the f-number of the lens. A small f
#
implies a fast lens (high light
gathering capability) and a large f
#
a slow lens (low light gathering capability).
The best lenses have f
#
1, while most have f
#
> 1. Thus the smallest spot
radius of focal spot is about the size of a wavelength.
The location d
2
of the focal spot (second waist) from Eq. (2.44), under the same
conditions, is given by
d
2
f
1
f
2
z
2
R1

1
d
1
f

= 1
z
2
R2
f
2

1
d
1
f

1 , (2.50)
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 75
where last step follows because z
R2
, the Rayleigh range for the focused beam, is
usually much less than f. This means the second waist is very nearly in the focal
plane of the lens.
The peak power density at the second waist is
I
02
=
2P
w
2
02
=
2P
(/n)
2

2
, (2.51)
where
2
=
2
2
is the solid angle into which the second beam waist radiates [Fig.
1.4] and
2
is the divergence angle for the focused beam. Similarly, the peak intensity
at the rst waist is
I
01
=
2P
w
2
01
=
2P
(/n)
2

1
, (2.52)
where
1
=
2
1
is the solid angle into which the rst waist radiates. The quantity
B = I
01
/
1
=
2P
(/n)
2
= I
02
/
2
is called the brightness (power emitted per unit
area per unit solid angle: W/m
2
sr) of the source. The brightness of a source is
an invariant in the sense that linear optics elements (mirrors, lenses etc.) do not
change it.
By expressing w
02
in terms of w
01
, the result for the peak intensity in the second
waist can also be written as
I
02
=
2P
f
2

1
. (2.52*)
From this expression we see that the power density that can be obtained by focusing
a beam of given power is inversely proportional to the solid angle divergence of the
beam being focused. High degree of directionality (smallness of ) of laser beams
thus is of crucial importance for obtaining high power densities in the focal spot.
By contrast, a thermal source (ordinary lamp) emits in all directions (2 steradian).
If it delivers a power P over an ideal lens aperture, leading to the focal spot power
density [See Fig. 1.4]
I
P
f
2
1
2
. (2.53)
Example: Consider a He:Ne laser with P = 1 mW, =633 nm, and spot size w
01
=1
mm. Then its divergence angle (n = 1), solid angle and intensity are
=

w
o
=
0.633 10
6
10
3
0.2 10
3
rad

1
=
2
= (0.2 10
3
)
2
1.3 10
7
sr
I
01
=
2P
w
2
0
=
2 10
3
(10
1
)
2
W/cm
2
= 64 mW/cm
2
If this laser is focused by a lens of f = 2.5 cm (the human eye), the peak intensity
will be
I
02
=
2P
f
2

1
=
2 10
3
6.25 1.3 10
7
2.5 10
3
W/cm
2
. (2.54)
76 Laser Physics
Thus, direct viewing of even a lower-power laser beam can result in severe retinal
damage. Thermal lamps would have to emit hundreds of thousands of watts to
match the intensities achievable by focusing even modest power lasers.
The large intensities achievable by lasers are a direct consequence of their low
divergence. While care must be exercised in dealing with laser beams, their use
in repairing detached retinas and other surgical procedures has become practically
routine.
2.2.2 Hermite-Gauss beam solutions
So far we have discussed only the fundamental Gaussian beam solution. There
are other solutions of the paraxial wave equation (2.9), which have more complex
spatial structure. In general, the solutions of the paraxial wave equation (2.9) will
be labeled by two indices. The solutions separable in the Cartesian coordinate
system are the Hermite-Gauss solutions given by
[E
o
]
mn
(r) = A
w
0
w
H
m
(

2x/w)H
n
(

2y/w)e
i(m+n+1)+ik
2
/2q
. (2.55)
Here we have suppressed the zdependence of w(z), complex beam parameter q(z)
and phase (z) for simplicity of writing. These quantities are independent of the
beam indices and are given by Eqs. (2.11b)-(2.11f). A Hermite-Gauss beam of
indices m, n is sometimes denoted by HG
mn
.
H
m
(x) in Eq.(2.55) is a Hermite polynomial of degree m and argument x. Some
low order Hermite polynomials and recursion relations for computing the higher
order ones are listed below
H
0
(x) = 1
H
1
(x) = 2x
H
2
(x) = 4x
2
2
H
3
(x) = 8x
3
12x
H
m+1
(x) = 2xH
m
(x) 2mH
m1
(x)
dH
m
(x)
dx
= 2mH
m1
(x)
(2.56)
Hermite-Gauss beams maintain their form during propagation. Spot size w(z) sets
the length scale over which the beam prole changes signicantly in transverse
directions, and z
R
sets the length scale over which beam prole changes signicantly
as the wave propagates. The intensity distribution for the beam with indices m, n
is given by
I
mn
(x, y) = I
0
w
2
0
w
2
H
2
m
(

2x/w)H
2
n
(

2y/w)e
2(x
2
+y
2
)/w
2
, (2.57)
where I
0
is given by
I
0
=
1
2

0
n|A|
2
c . (2.58)
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 77
The total power of mode with indices m, n is
P =

dxdyI
mn
(x, y, z) = I
0
w
2
0
w
2

dxdyH
2
m
(

2x/w)H
2
n
(

2y/w)e
2(x
2
+y
2
)/w
2
=
1
2
I
0
w
2
0

dXH
2
m
(X)e
X
2

dY H
2
n
(Y )e
Y
2

=
1
2
I
0
w
2
0

2
m

m!

2
n

n!

The intensity distribution then can be written as


I
mn
=
2P
w
2
1
2
m+n
m!n!
H
2
m
(

2x/w)H
2
n
(

2y/w)e
2(x
2
+y
2
)/w
2
(2.59)
It is easy to check that for m = 0 = n we recover the intensity distribution of the
fundamental gaussian mode.
Intensity distributions of some low order Hermite gaussian beams are
I
00
(x, y, z) =
2P
w
2
e
2(x
2
+y
2
)/w
2
I
10
(x, y, z) =
2P
w
2
1
2
8x
2
w
2
e
2(x
2
+y
2
)/w
2
I
01
(x, y, z) =
2P
w
2
1
2
8y
2
w
2
e
2(x
2
+y
2
)/w
2
I
11
(x, y, z) =
2P
w
2
1
4
8x
2
w
2
8y
2
w
2
e
2(x
2
+y
2
)/w
2
I
20
(x, y, z) =
2P
w
2
1
8
H
2
2

2x
w

e
2(x
2
+y
2
)/w
2
(2.60)
In terms of scaled variables X =

2x/w, Y =

2y/w, we obtain slightly more


compact expression
I
mn
(X, Y ) =
P
2
m+n
m!n!
H
2
m
(X)H
2
n
(Y )e
(X
2
+Y
2
)
. (2.61)
for the intensity. Expressed in terms of X and Y , the intensity distribution is form
invariant. Note that the power normalization condition is now

I
mn
(X, Y )dXdY = P .
2.2.3 Astigmatic Hermite-Gauss Beams
It is possible for gaussian beams to have dierent spot sizes in the two transverse
dimensions. The fundamental beam will then have an elliptical cross-section. For
this reason such a beam is called an elliptical beam. They are good models for the
light emitted by semiconductor lasers. Elliptical beams will converge or diverge at
dierent rates along the principal axes of the ellipse. Such beams will therefore be
78 Laser Physics
astigmatic. If a elliptic beam is passed through a lens, beam waists after the lens
do not, in general, lie in the same plane. Fundamental elliptical beam has the form
E
o
(r) = A
_
w
0x
w
0y
w
x
(z)w
y
(z)
e
ik

x
2
2q
x
(z)
+
y
2
2q
y
(z)

i(z)
1
q
x
(z)
=
1
R
x
(z)
+i
2
kw
2
x
(z)
1
q
y
(z)
=
1
R
y
(z)
+i
2
kw
2
y
(z)
w
2
x
= w
2
ox
_
1 +
_
2(z z
x
)
kw
2
0x
_
2
_
w
2
y
= w
2
oy
_
_
1 +
_
2(z z
y
)
kw
2
0y
_
2
_
_
R
x
(z) = (z Z
x
)
_
1 +
_
kw
2
0x
2(z Z
x
)
_
2
_
R
y
(z) = (z Z
y
)
_
_
1 +
_
kw
2
0y
2(z Z
y
)
_
2
_
_
(z) =
1
2
tan
1
_
2(z Z
x
)
kw
2
0x
_
+
1
2
tan
1
_
2(z Z
y
)
kw
2
0y
_
(2.62)
Beam waist occurs at z = Z
x
in the x z plane and at z = Z
y
for the y z plane.
These two planes in general do not coincide. The beam in general has elliptical
prole. Semiconductor lasers emit this type of beams. Such beam can be converted
into symmetric Hermite-Gauss beams by using prisms or cylindrical lenses. For
w
0x
= w
0y
= w
0
(which also requires Z
x
= Z
y
= Z), we recover the fundamental
circularly symmetric gaussian beam with waist at Z.
2.2.4 Laguerre-Gauss Beams
Paraxial wave equation (2.9) admits beam solutions that reect other symmetries.
For example, in the presence of circular cylindrical symmetry about the z-axis, Eq.
(2.9) admits Laguerre-Gaussian beam solutions
[E
o
]
p
(r) = A

2(p!)
(p + )!
w
0
w
_

2
w
_
||
e
i
L
||
p
_
2
2
w
2
_
e
i(2p++1)+i
k
2
2q
. (2.63)
where L
|
p
(x) is the associated Laguerre polynomial and w(z) and R(z) are inde-
pendent of the mode indices. Some low order associated Laguerre polynomials and
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 79
recursion relations for computing the higher order polynomials are ( > 0)
L

0
(u) = 1
L

1
(u) = u + + 1
L

2
(u) =
1
2
_
u
2
2( + 2)u + ( + 1)( + 2)

(p + 1)L
||
p+1
(u) = (2p + + 1 u)L
||
p
(u) (p + )L
||
p1
(u)
u
dL
||
p
(u)
du
= pL
||
p
(u) (p + )L
||
p1
(u)
(2.64)
We see that the lowest order solution (p = 0 = ) coincides with the fundamental
Gaussian beam solution for the HG family. For p = 0 and = 1 we obtain the
intensity
I
01
() = I
0
w
2
0
w
2
2
2
w
2
e
2
2
/w
2
(2.65)
This has a dark center and is sometimes called the donut mode. Note that the
donut shaped intensity distribution sometimes seen in lasers is most often a mix-
ture of HG
01
and HG
10
modes.
Let us calculate the total power of the beam. With I
o
=
1
2

0
cn|A|
2
, we have
P =

_
0
d
2
_
0
d I(, z)
= I
o
2(p!)
( +p)!
_
w
0
w
_
2
2

_
0
d
_

2
w
_
2
_
L
||
p
(2
2
/w
2
)
_
2
e
2
2
/w
2
= I
o
_
4(p!)
( +p)!
_
_
w
o
w
_
2
w
2
4

_
0
duu

_
L
||
p
(u)
_
2
e
u
= I
o
_
(p!)
( +p)!
_
w
2
o
( +p)!
(p!)
= I
o
w
2
o
(2.66)
Hence we can write the intensity of LG
p
beam as
I
p
=
2P
w
2
p!
( +p)!
_

2
w
_
2
_
L
||
p
(2
2
/w
2
)
_
2
e
2
2
/w
2
(2.67)
There are also the so-called Bessel beam or non-diracting beam solutions [3]. In
practice, symmetries other than the rectangular symmetry are dicult to realize.
The presence of Brewster surfaces and other asymmetric optical elements in laser
resonators naturally leads to beams with Cartesian symmetry. For this reason only
the Hermite-Gauss solutions are usually considered.
80 Laser Physics
2.3 Laser Beam Quality
We have seen that the fundamental gaussian beam spot size, which sets the trans-
verse length scale for the beam, varies as
w
2
(z) = w
2
o

1 +

(z z
o
)
2
z
R

= w
2
o
+


w
o

2
(z z
o
)
2
,
where z
o
is the location of beam waist. We also note that the spot size for a gaussian
beam is related to the transverse variance
2
x
or standard deviation
x
of a TEM
00
beam by w
x
= 2
x
and w
o
= 2
ox
in the x direction, and w
y
= 2
y
and w
o
= 2
oy
in the y direction. If we dene the spot sizes for an arbitrary, non-gaussian beam
as W
x
= 2
x
and W
y
= 2
y
, then it is possible to show that in the paraxial
approximation, the axial variations of these spot sizes in free space is given by
W
2
x
(z) = W
2
ox
+M
4
x


W
ox

2
(z z
ox
)
2
, (2.68a)
W
2
y
(z) = W
2
oy
+M
4
y


W
oy

2
(z z
oy
)
2
, (2.68b)
where M
2
x
and M
2
y
are the so called beam quality factors in the x and y directions.
To extract their physical meaning, we consider the far-eld limits of these equations,
which yield
W
x
(z) = M
2
x


W
ox

(z z
ox
) , (2.69a)
W
y
(z) = M
2
y


W
oy

(z z
oy
) . (2.69b)
A comparison of these equations with the corresponding result for the ideal gaussian
beam shows that the far-eld divergence of the given beam M
2


W
o

is a factor
of M
2
larger compared to the far-eld divergence


W
o

of a gaussian beam of the


same waist spot size W
o
.
Equations (2.68) imply that the free-space propagation of the transverse spot
sizes W
x
and W
y
for any real laser beam is determined by a waist spot size W
o
and waist location z
o
, exactly like the parameters w
x
(z) and w
y
(z) for a gaussian
beam. However, the propagation of a real beam, in addition to being dependent on
the ration /W
o
, also depends on the beam quality factor M
2
in the appropriate
transverse direction.
The beam quality factor thus dened is always M
2
< 1. Note also that the
Rayleigh range for this beam in the x coordinate is given by Z
Rx
= W
2
ox
/M
2
x
, so
that the far-eld divergence of the beam increases both as the waist size W
ox
gets
smaller and also as the beam quality factor M
2
x
gets larger. The axial propagation
Beam-Like Solutions of the Wave Equation 81
of an arbitrary laser beam is thus fully characterized by the six parameters W
ox
, z
ox
and M
2
x
in the x transverse direction and W
oy
, z
oy
and M
2
y
in the y direction. The
quadratic propagation equation written above will in fact be valid for any choice
of perpendicular x and y axes in the transverse plane. However, the parameter
values W
ox
, W
oy
give the most signicant description of the beam if the x and y
correspond to the principal axes of the beam, that is, the axes in which the cross
moment xy over the beam intensity prole is zero. The most general real beam
can then be characterized by its waist asymmetry (W
ox
= W
oy
, its conventional
astigmatism (z
ox
= z
oy
, and its divergence asymmetry (M
2
x
/W
ox
= M
2
y
/W
oy
).