Theoretical analysis of Fresnel reflection and transmission in the presence of gain media

Masud Mansuripur, Per K. Jakobsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When a monochromatic electromagnetic plane-wave arrives at the flat interface between its transparent host (i.e., the incidence medium) and an amplifying (or gainy) second medium, the incident beam splits into a reflected wave and a transmitted wave. In general, there is a sign ambiguity in connection with the k-vector of the transmitted beam, which requires at the outset that one decide whether the transmitted beam should grow or decay as it recedes from the interface. The question has been posed and addressed most prominently in the context of incidence at large angles from a dielectric medium of high refractive index onto a gain medium of lower refractive index. Here, the relevant sign of the transmitted k-vector determines whether the evanescent-like waves within the gain medium exponentially grow or decay away from the interface. We examine this and related problems in a more general setting, where the incident beam is taken to be a finite-duration wavepacket whose footprint in the interfacial plane has a finite width. Cases of reflection from and transmission through a gainy slab of finite-thickness as well as those associated with a semi-infinite gain medium will be considered. The broadness of the spatiotemporal spectrum of our incident wavepacket demands that we develop a general strategy for deciding the signs of all the k-vectors that enter the gain medium. Such a strategy emerges from a consideration of the causality constraint that is naturally imposed on both the reflected and transmitted wavepackets.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)626-649
Number of pages24
JournalOptical Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atomic and Molecular Physics, and Optics


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