Laser beam quality metrics like M2 can be used to describe the spot sizes and propagation behavior of a wide variety of non-ideal laser beams. However, for beams that have been diffracted by limiting apertures in the near-field, or those with unusual near-field profiles, the conventional metrics can lead to an inconsistent or incomplete description of far-field performance. This paper motivates an alternative laser beam quality definition that can be used with any beam. The approach uses a consideration of the intrinsic ability of a laser beam profile to heat a material. Comparisons are made with conventional beam quality metrics. An analysis on an asymmetric Gaussian beam is used to establish a connection with the invariant beam propagation ratio.
© 2012 OSA
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