In our proposal a light intensity distribution generated by an incoherently illuminated planar amplitude grating is projected into a photorefractive crystal. This 3D distribution is mapped as an index refractive perturbation via the photorefractive effect thereby generating a volume phase grating. The self-imaging phenomenon in the Fresnel field of this volume phase grating coherently illuminated is theoretically and experimentally analyzed. A model to simulate this volume grating that considers the 3D light intensity distribution formed in the crystal combined with the photorefractive grating formation theory is proposed. A path-integral approach to calculate the self-image patterns which account for the inhomogeneous propagation through the photorefractive grating is employed. The experimental and theoretical results show that the self-images location coincides with that of the self-images generated by planar phase grating of the same period. Moreover, the self-images visibility depends on three parameters: the exit pupil diameter of the incoherent recording optical system, the external electric field applied on the crystal, and the crystal thickness. To study the visibility behavior, a phase parameter which includes the three mentioned parameters is proposed. The self-images visibility shows the typical sinusoidal dependence found in planar phase grating. A good agreement between theoretical and experimental results is observed.
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