Robustness of light-transport processes to bending deformations in graded-index multimode waveguides
in: Physical Review Letters (2018)
Light transport through a multimode optical waveguide undergoes changes when subjected to bending deformations. We show that optical waveguides with a perfectly parabolic refractive index profile are almost immune to bending, conserving the structure of propagation-invariant modes. Moreover, we show that changes to the transmission matrix of parabolic-index fibers due to bending can be expressed with only two free parameters, regardless of how complex a particular deformation is. We provide detailed analysis of experimentally measured transmission matrices of a commercially available graded-index fiber as well as a gradient-index rod-lens featuring a very faithful parabolic refractive index profile. Although parabolic-index fibers with a sufficiently precise refractive index profile are not within our reach, we show that imaging performance with standard commercially available graded-index fibers is significantly less influenced by bending deformations than step-index types under the same conditions. Our work thus predicts that the availability of ultra-precise parabolic-index fibers will make endoscopic applications with flexible probes feasible and free from extremely elaborate computational challenges.