This paper gives the theoretical basis for the development of real vector modal methods to describe optical-fiber modes. To this end, the vector wave equations, which determine the electromagnetic fields, are written in terms of a pair of linear, nonself-adjoint operators, whose eigenvectors satisfy biorthogonality relations. The key of our method is to obtain a matrix representation of the vector wave equations in a basis that is defined by the modes of an auxiliary system. Our proposed technique can be applied to fibers with any profile, even those with a complex refractive index. An example is discussed to illustrate our approach.
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