Plane wave expansion method

Plane wave expansion method (PWE) refers to a computational technique in Electromagnetics,solve the Maxwell's equations by formulating an Eigenvalue problem out of it. This method isa popular among Photonic Crystal community, as a method of solving for the
band structure (dispersion relation) of specific photonic crystal geometries. PWE istraceable to the analytical formulations, and is useful to calculate modal solutions of Maxwell's equations over an inhomogeneous or periodic geometry. It is specifically tuned to solvingproblems in a time-harmonic forms, with non-dispersive media.


Plane waves are solutions to the homogeneous Helmholtz equation, and form a basis to representfields in the periodic media. PWE as applied to photonic crystals is described, primarily sourced from Dr. Danner's tutorial [] .

The electric or magnetic fields are expanded for each field component, in terms of the fourier series components along the reciprocal lattice vector; similarlythe dielectric permitivitty (which is periodic along reciprocal lattice vector, forphotonic crystals) is also expanded through fourier series components,

:frac{1}{epsilon_r} = sum_{m=-infty}^{+infty} K_m^{epsilon_r} e^{-j vec{G}.vec{r

:E(omega,vec{r}) = sum_{n=-infty}^{+infty} K_n^{E_y} e^{-jvec{G}.vec{r e^{-jvec{k}vec{r

with the fourier series coefficients being the K numbers subscripted by m, n respectively, and thereciprocal lattice vector given by vec{G}. In realmodeling the range of components considered will be reduced to just pm Nmax insteadof the ideal, infinite wave.

Using these expansions in any of the curl-curl relations like,:frac{1}{epsilon(vec{r})} abla imes abla imes E(vec{r},omega) = left( frac{omega}{c} ight)^2 E(vec{r},omega)

and simplifying under assumptions of a source free, linear, and non-dispersive region we obtain the eigen value relations which can be solved.

Example for 1D case

For a y-polarized z-propagating electric wave, incident on a 1D-DBR periodic in only z-direction and homogeneous along x,y,with a lattice period of a. We then have the following simplified relations:

:frac{1}{epsilon_r} = sum_{m=-infty}^{+infty} K_m^{epsilon_r} e^{-j frac{2pi m}{a}z}

:E(omega,vec{r}) = sum_{n=-infty}^{+infty} K_n^{E_y} e^{-jfrac{2pi n}{a}z} e^{-jvec{k}vec{r

The constitutive eigen equation we finally have to solve becomes,:sum_n{left( frac{2pi n}{a} + k_z ight)^2 K_{m-n}^{epsilon_r} K_{n}^{E_y = frac{omega^2}{c^2}K_{m}^{E_y}

This can be solved by building a matrix for the terms in the left hand side, and finding its eigen value and vectors.The eigen values correspond to the modal solutions, while the corresponding magnetic or electric fields themselvescan be plotted using the fourier expansions. The coefficients of the field harmonics are obtained from the specificeigen vectors.

The resulting band-structure obtained through the eigen modes of this structure are shown to the right.

Example code

We can use the following code in Matlab or GNU Octave to compute the same band structure,

%% solve the DBR photonic band structure for a simple% 1D DBR. air-spacing d, periodicity a, i.e, a > d,% we assume an infinite stack of 1D alternating eps_r|air layers% y-polarized, z-directed plane wave incident on the stack% periodic in the z-direction; %

%parametersd=8; %air gapa=10; %total periodicityd_over_a = d/a;eps_r =12.2500; %dielectric constant, like GaAs,

% max F.S coefs for representing E field, and Eps(r), areMmax=50;

% Q matrix is non-symmetric in this case, Qij != Qji% Qmn = (2*pi*n + Kz)^2*Km-n% Kn = delta_n / eps_r + (1 - 1/eps_r)(d/a)sinc(pi.n.d/a)% here n runs from -Mmax to + Mmax,

freqs= [] ;for Kz=-pi/a:pi/(10*a):+pi/aQ=zeros(2*Mmax + 1);for x=1:2*Mmax+1 for y=1:2*Mmax+1 X=x-Mmax; Y=y-Mmax; kn=(1 -1/eps_r)*d_over_a.*sinc((X-Y).*d_over_a) + ((X-Y)=0)*1/eps_r; Q(x,y)=(2*pi*Y/a + Kz).^2*kn; endend

fprintf('Kz = %g ',Kz)omega_c=eig(Q);omega_c=sort(sqrt(omega_c));%important step.freqs= [freqs; omega_c.'] ;end

close()figure()hold onidx=1;

for idx=1:length(-pi/a:pi/(10*a):+pi/a) plot(-pi/a:pi/(10*a):+pi/a,freqs(:,idx),'.-')end hold offxlabel('Kz')ylabel('omega/c')title(sprintf('PBG of 1D DBR with d/a=%g, Epsr=%g',d/a,eps_r))


PWE expansions are rigorous solutions. PWE is extremely well suited to the modal solution problem.Large size problems can be solved using iterative techniques like Conjugate gradient method.For both generalized and normal eigen value problems, just a few band-index plots in the band-structure diagrams are required usually lying on the brillouin zone edges. This correspondsto eigen modes solutions using iterative technqiues, as opposed to diagonalization of the entire matrix.


Sometimes spurious modes appear. Large problems scaled as "O(n3)", with the number of the plane waves (n) used in the problem; this is both time consuming and complex in memory requirements as well.

Alternatives include order-N spectral method, and methods using FDTD which aresimpler, and model transients.

ee also

*Photonic crystal
*Computational electromagnetics
*Finite-difference time-domain method
*Finite element method
*Maxwells equations


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