Free-space optical interconnects (FSOIs), made up of dense arrays of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers, photodetectors and microlenses can be used for implementing high-speed and high-density communication links, and hence replace the inferior electrical interconnects. A major concern in the design of FSOIs is minimization of the optical channel cross talk arising from laser beam diffraction. In this article we introduce modifications to the mode expansion method of Tanaka et al. [IEEE Trans. Microwave Theory Tech. MTT-20, 749 (1972)] to make it an efficient tool for modelling and design of FSOIs in the presence of diffraction. We demonstrate that our modified mode expansion method has accuracy similar to the exact solution of the Huygens-Kirchhoff diffraction integral in cases of both weak and strong beam clipping, and that it is much more accurate than the existing approximations. The strength of the method is twofold: first, it is applicable in the region of pronounced diffraction (strong beam clipping) where all other approximations fail and, second, unlike the exact-solution method, it can be efficiently used for modelling diffraction on multiple apertures. These features make the mode expansion method useful for design and optimization of free-space architectures containing multiple optical elements inclusive of optical interconnects and optical clock distribution systems.
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