Abstract

Reliable and rapid assessment of the transverse mode quality of a free-space laser beam has a wide range of applications in laser development, research, and utilization. It has become even more important with recent advances in developing orbital angular momentum photon beams across a broad spectral region. In this work, a general modal analysis method for a free-space multimode laser beam has been developed based on Bayesian analysis. After transforming mode decomposition into a linear system problem, a Gaussian probabilistic model is used to find a closed-form solution. The method is found to be robust with the presence of Gaussian noise. Prior knowledge about the mode content can be incorporated into the method to improve the solution for situations when coherent disturbances or contamination are present in the laser beam. This method can be used to analyze the mode content for laser beams in different bases, such as Hermite–Gaussian (HG) modes and Laguerre–Gaussian (LG) modes. Three applications of this method are presented: a detailed modal analysis of the beam image from the incoherent intensity addition of HG modes and two examples of mode decomposition using the complex wavefront from the coherent superposition of HG and LG modes. The feasibility of this method is demonstrated using various simulation results. Based on digital images of a laser beam recorded without complex wavelength-limiting optics, in principle, this method can be used in a wide wavelength range from infrared to ultraviolet, and possibly x ray.

© 2021 Optical Society of America

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