The diffraction effects induced by a thick holographic grating on the propagation of a finite Gaussian beam are theoretically analyzed by means of the coupled-wave theory and the beam propagation method. Distortion of the transmitted and diffracted beams is simulated as a function of the grating parameters. Theoretical results are verified by experimentation realized by use of LiNbO3 volume gratings read out by a 1550-nm Gaussian beam, typical of optical fiber communications. This analysis can be implemented as a useful tool to aid with the design of volume grating-based devices employed in optical communications.
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