The modal decomposition of an arbitrary optical field may be done without regard to the spatial scale of the chosen basis functions, but this generally leads to a large number of modes in the expansion. While this may be considered as mathematically correct, it is not efficient and not physically representative of the underlying field. Here we demonstrate a modal decomposition approach that requires no a priori knowledge of the spatial scale of the modes, but nevertheless leads to an optimised modal expansion. We illustrate the power of the method by successfully decomposing beams from a diode-pumped solid state laser resonator into an optimised Laguerre-Gaussian mode set. Our experimental results, which are in agreement with theory, illustrate the versatility of the approach.
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