Physics of SELFOC

The Gradient Constant

The SELFOC lens utilizes a radial index gradient. The index of refraction is highest in the center of the lens and decreases with radial distance from the axis. The following equation describes the refractive index distribution of a SELFOC lens:

Equation 1:
N(r) = N0(1 - A2/ 2 * r2)

This equation shows that the index falls quadratically as a function of radial distance. The resulting parabolic index distribution has a steepness that is determined by the value of the gradient constant, A Although the value of this parameter must be determined through indirect measurement techniques, it is a characterization of the lens' optical performance. How rapidly rays will converge to a point for any particular wavelength depends on the gradient constant. The dependence of A and N0, on wavelength is described by the dispersion equations listed at the end of this product guide. Note that different dispersion equations apply to different lens diameters and numerical apertures.

Lens Length & Pitch

In a SELFOC lens, rays follow sinusoidal paths until reaching the back surface of the lens. A light ray that has traversed one pitch has traversed one cycle of the sinusoidal wave that characterizes that lens. Viewed in this way, the pitch is the spatial frequency of the ray trajectory.

Equation 2:
2P=A Z

The above equation relates the pitch (P) to the mechanical length of the lens (Z) and the gradient constant. The figure below illustrates different ray trajectories for lenses of various pitch. Notice how an image may be formed on the back surface of the lens if the pitch is chosen appropriately.

Paraxial Optics

In contrast to the optics of homogeneous materials, gradient-index optics involve smoothly-varying ray trajectories within the GRIN media. The paraxial (first-order) behavior of these materials is modeled by assuming sinusoidal ray paths within the lens and by allowing the quadratic term in Equation 1 to vanish in the ray-tracing calculations. All of the usual paraxial quantities may be calculated with the help of the ray-trace matrices given at the end of this product guide. The formulae for common paraxial distances have also been tabulated for quick reference.