We implement numerical modeling of high-energy laser-pulse propagation through bulk nonlinear optical materials using focused beams. An executable program with a graphical user interface is made available to researchers for modeling the propagation of beams through materials much thicker than the diffraction length (up to 10<sup>3</sup> times longer). Ultrafast nonlinearities of the bound-electronic Kerr effect and two-photon absorption as well as time-dependent excited-state and thermal nonlinearities are taken into account. The hydrodynamic equations describing the rarefaction of the medium that is due to heating are solved to determine thermal index changes for nanosecond laser pulses. We also show how this effect can be simplified in some cases by an approximation that assumes instantaneous expansion (so-called thermal lensing approximation). Comparisons of numerical results with several <i>Z</i>-scan, optical limiting and beam distortion experiments are presented. Possible application to optimization of a passive optical limiter design is discussed.
© 1999 Optical Society of America
(190.3270) Nonlinear optics : Kerr effect
(190.4180) Nonlinear optics : Multiphoton processes
(190.4870) Nonlinear optics : Photothermal effects
(190.5530) Nonlinear optics : Pulse propagation and temporal solitons
(190.5940) Nonlinear optics : Self-action effects
Dmitriy I. Kovsh, Sidney Yang, David J. Hagan, and Eric W. Van Stryland, "Nonlinear Optical Beam Propagation for Optical Limiting," Appl. Opt. 38, 5168-5180 (1999)