A fast coupled-integral-equation (CIE) technique is developed to compute the plane-TE-wave scattering by a wide class of periodic 2D inhomogeneous structures with curvilinear boundaries, which includes finite-thickness relief and rod gratings made of homogeneous material as special cases. The CIEs in the spectral domain are derived from the standard volume electric field integral equation. The kernel of the CIEs is of Picard type and offers therefore the possibility of deriving recursions, which allow the computation of the convolution integrals occurring in the CIEs with linear amounts of arithmetic complexity and memory. To utilize this advantage, the CIEs are solved iteratively. We apply the biconjugate gradient stabilized method. To make the iterative solution process faster, an efficient preconditioning operator (PO) is proposed that is based on a formal analytical inversion of the CIEs. The application of the PO also takes only linear complexity and memory. Numerical studies are carried out to demonstrate the potential and flexibility of the CIE technique proposed. Though the best efficiency and accuracy are observed at either low permittivity contrast or high conductivity, the technique can be used in a wide range of variation of material parameters of the structures including when they contain components made of both dielectrics with high permittivity and typical metals.
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