The Fourier modal method (FMM), often also referred to as rigorous coupled-wave analysis (RCWA), is known to suffer from numerical instabilities when applied to low-loss metallic gratings under TM incidence. This problem has so far been attributed to the imperfect conditioning of the matrices to be diagonalized. The present analysis based on a modal vision reveals that the so-called instabilities are true features of the solution of the mathematical problem of a binary metal grating dealt with by truncated Fourier representation of Maxwell’s equations. The extreme sensitivity of this solution to the optogeometrical parameters is the result of the excitation, propagation, coupling, interference, and resonance of a finite number of very slow propagating spurious modes. An astute management of these modes permits a complete and safe removal of the numerical instabilities at the price of an arbitrarily small and controllable reduction in accuracy as compared with the referenced true-mode method.
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