Diffraction by volume gratings with imaginary potentials
A medium described by an imaginary potential (or imaginary (refractive index) ), that varies sinusoidally in one direction, acts as a volume grating for plane waves incident on it obliquely or normally. Two peculiar features are identified. First, if the potential is weak, so that there are only two significant diffracted beams near the Bragg angle, and three for normal incidence, diffraction is strongly affected by degeneracies of the non-Hermitian matrix generating the `Bloch waves' in the grating; the effect of these degeneracies is very different from that of the Hermitian degeneracies for transparent gratings. Second, if the potential is strong and the grating thick, the asymptotic distribution of intensities among the diffracted beams (momentum distribution) is a rather narrow Gaussian, and dominated by a single set of complex rays; this is very different from the semiclassical limit for transparent gratings, where the rays form families of caustics proliferating with thickness, and with a wider momentum distribution.