Scalar diffraction theory is combined with beam-propagation techniques to investigate the projection of near-field diffraction patterns to spatial locations away from the aperture for use in optically trapping cold neutral alkali-metal atoms. Calculations show that intensity distributions with localized bright and dark spots usually found within a millimeter of the diffracting aperture can be projected to a region free from optical components such as a cloud of cold atoms within a vacuum chamber. Calculations also predict that the critical properties of the optical dipole atom traps are not only maintained for the projected intensity patterns but also can be manipulated and improved by adjustment of the optical components outside the vacuum chamber.



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