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Finite two-dimensional (2D)-photonic crystal slab waveguide structures from moderate refractive index materials have been investigated theoretically and results were compared with experimental data. 3D-finite difference time domain (3D-FDTD) simulations reveal a strong dependence of the transmission on the etching depth. For structures with etching depths less than the waveguide core thickness, both a substantial leakage of optical power to the substrate and a spatial mismatch of the transmitted field to the waveguide mode were found, leading to unsatisfactory transmissions. These losses occur mainly on the airband side of the spectrum where the optical field is concentrated in the holes. However, hole depths extending into the substrate by only 0.5 μm lead to an almost perfect mode match at transmission values exceeding 90%. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.