, Volume 56, Issue 2, pp 355-372
Date: 11 Mar 2012

A tale of two beams: an elementary overview of Gaussian beams and Bessel beams

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An overview of two types of beam solutions is presented, Gaussian beams and Bessel beams. Gaussian beams are examples of non-localized or diffracting beam solutions, and Bessel beams are example of localized, non-diffracting beam solutions. Gaussian beams stay bounded over a certain propagation range after which they diverge. Bessel beams are among a class of solutions to the wave equation that are ideally diffraction-free and do not diverge when they propagate. They can be described by plane waves with normal vectors along a cone with a fixed angle from the beam propagation direction. X-waves are an example of pulsed beams that propagate in an undistorted fashion. For realizable localized beam solutions, Bessel beams must ultimately be windowed by an aperture, and for a Gaussian tapered window function this results in Bessel-Gauss beams. Bessel-Gauss beams can also be realized by a combination of Gaussian beams propagating along a cone with a fixed opening angle. Depending on the beam parameters, Bessel-Gauss beams can be used to describe a range of beams solutions with Gaussian beams and Bessel beams as end-members. Both Gaussian beams, as well as limited diffraction beams, can be used as building blocks for the modeling and synthesis of other types of wave fields. In seismology and geophysics, limited diffraction beams have the potential of providing improved controllability of the beam solutions and a large depth of focus in the subsurface for seismic imaging.