Practical collimating diffractive cylindrical lenses of 2, 4, 8, and 16 discrete levels are analyzed with a sequential application of the two-region formulation of the rigorous electromagnetic boundary-element method (BEM). A Gaussian beam of TE or TM polarization is incident upon the finite-thickness lens. F/4, F/2, and F/1.4 lenses are analyzed and near-field electric-field patterns are presented. The near-field wave-front quality is quantified by its mean-square deviation from a planar wave front. This deviation is found to be less than 0.05 free-space wavelengths. The far-field intensity patterns are determined and compared with the ones predicted by the approximate Fraunhofer scalar diffraction analysis. The diffraction efficiencies determined with the rigorous BEM are found to be generally lower than those obtained with the scalar approximation. For comparison, the performance characteristics of the corresponding continuous Fresnel (continuous profile within a zone but discontinuous at zone boundaries) and continuous refractive lenses are determined by the use of both the BEM and the scalar approximation. The diffraction efficiency of the continuous Fresnel lens is found to be similar to that of the 16-level diffractive lens but less than that of the continuous refractive lens. It is shown that the validity of the scalar approximation deteriorates as the lens f-number decreases.
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