Average powers from fiber lasers have reached the point that a quantitative understanding of thermal lensing and its impact on transverse mode instability is becoming critical. Although thermal lensing is well known qualitatively, there is a general lack of a simple method for quantitative analysis. In this work, we first conduct a study of thermal lensing in optical fibers based on a perturbation technique. The perturbation technique becomes increasingly inaccurate as thermal lensing gets stronger. It, however, provides a basis for determining a normalization factor to use in a more accurate numerical study. A simple thermal lensing threshold condition is developed. The impact of thermal lensing on transverse mode instability is also studied.
© 2016 Optical Society of America
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