# Rayleigh length

(Redirected from Rayleigh range)
Gaussian beam width $w(z)$ as a function of the axial distance $z$. $w_0$: beam waist; $b$: confocal parameter; $z_\mathrm{R}$: Rayleigh length; $\Theta$: total angular spread

In optics and especially laser science, the Rayleigh length or Rayleigh range is the distance along the propagation direction of a beam from the waist to the place where the area of the cross section is doubled.[1] A related parameter is the confocal parameter, b, which is twice the Rayleigh length.[2] The Rayleigh length is particularly important when beams are modeled as Gaussian beams.

## Explanation

For more details on this topic, see Gaussian beam.

For a Gaussian beam propagating in free space along the $\hat{z}$ axis, the Rayleigh length is given by [2]

$z_\mathrm{R} = \frac{\pi w_0^2}{\lambda} ,$

where $\lambda$ is the wavelength and $w_0$ is the beam waist, the radial size of the beam at its narrowest point. This equation and those that follow assume that the waist is not extraordinarily small; $w_0 \ge 2\lambda/\pi$.[3]

The radius of the beam at a distance $z$ from the waist is [4]

$w(z) = w_0 \, \sqrt{ 1+ {\left( \frac{z}{z_\mathrm{R}} \right)}^2 } .$

The minimum value of $w(z)$ occurs at $w(0) = w_0$, by definition. At distance $z_\mathrm{R}$ from the beam waist, the beam radius is increased by a factor $\sqrt{2}$ and the cross sectional area by 2.

## Related quantities

The total angular spread of a Gaussian beam in radians is related to the Rayleigh length by[1]

$\Theta_{\mathrm{div}} \simeq 2\frac{w_0}{z_R}.$

The diameter of the beam at its waist (focus spot size) is given by

$D = 2\,w_0 \simeq \frac{4\lambda}{\pi\, \Theta_{\mathrm{div}}}$.

These equations are valid within the limits of the paraxial approximation. For beams with much larger divergence the Gaussian beam model is no longer accurate and a physical optics analysis is required.