The response of photorefractive materials to sinusoidal intensity patterns of high modulation depths is considered. It is shown that the induced refractive-index response in this regime is highly nonlinear. Concise analytic expressions for the various nonlinear harmonics of the photorefractive response field are developed and compared with exact numerical solutions of the underlying charge-transport equations as well as with the results of previous theoretical models over a broad range of physical parameters. We show that the nonlinear response characteristics are strongly dependent on both the magnitude of applied electric fields and the relative concentrations of charge donor and acceptor sites in the material. For drift dominated recording, in particular, we determine analytically that in the limit of a minimal acceptor/donor ratio, the amplitudes of higher spatial harmonics of the response reach a maximum and eventually decay as functions of increasing applied field, whereas these amplitudes reach a nonzero limit in the case of a near-unity acceptor/donor ratio. Finally, we generalize our results to account for diffusion effects in an appended derivation.
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