We design and investigate an original optical component made of a c-cut uniaxial crystal and an optical system to generate cylindrical vector beams with an adjustable polarization state. The original optical component has a specific, nearly conical shape which allows it to operate like a broadband wave retarder with the fast axis oriented radially with respect to the optical axis. We show via numerical simulations, using the Debye–Wolf diffraction integral, that the focal spot changes depending on the polarization state, thus enabling the control of the focal shape. Non-symmetrical shapes can be created although the optical system and incoming beam are circularly symmetric. We explained, using Jones matrix formalism, that this phenomenon is connected with the Gouy phase difference acquired by certain modes composing the beam due to propagation to the focal plane. We present our conclusions in the context of two potential applications, namely, stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy and laser micromachining. The optical system can potentially be used for STED microscopy for better control of the point-spread function of the microscope and to decrease the unwanted light emitted from the surroundings of the focal point. We give an analytical expression for the shape of the original component using the aspherical lens formula for the two versions of the component: one for each potential application.
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