The local plane-interface approximation (LPIA) is a method for propagating electromagnetic fields through the inhomogeneous regions (e.g., elements) of an optical system. The LPIA is the superclass of all approximations that replace the usually curved optical interfaces with local tangential planes. Therefore the LPIA is restricted to smooth optical surfaces. A maximum radius of curvature of the optical interface of the order of a few wavelengths is a rough estimate for the validity of the LPIA. Two important approximation levels of the LPIA are the thin-element approximation (TEA) and a geometric-optical version of the LPIA (LPIA<sub>ray</sub>). The latter combines the wave-optical propagation of an electromagnetic field in the homogeneous region of an optical system with a ray-tracing step in the inhomogeneous region. We discuss the regions of validity of the LPIA in general and the approximation levels LPIA<sub>ray</sub> and TEA in detail.
© 2000 Optical Society of America
(050.1940) Diffraction and gratings : Diffraction
(050.1970) Diffraction and gratings : Diffractive optics
(120.5710) Instrumentation, measurement, and metrology : Refraction
(350.3950) Other areas of optics : Micro-optics
(350.4600) Other areas of optics : Optical engineering
Albrecht v. Pfeil, Frank Wyrowski, Andreas Drauschke, and Harald Aagedal, "Analysis of Optical Elements with the Local Plane-Interface Approximation," Appl. Opt. 39, 3304-3313 (2000)