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High-sensitivity plasma density retrieval in a common-path second-harmonic interferometer through simultaneous group and phase velocity measurement

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Precise measurements of the plasma density in ionized gas cells and discharged capillaries are critical to the design and operation of plasma-based accelerators, active plasma lenses, and plasma-based radiation sources. In this manuscript, a spectral-domain common-path second-harmonic interferometer is upgraded with the simultaneous measurement of the group and phase velocity, allowing for high-sensitivity density characterization (from the phase velocity advance) without the need for phase tracking from zero-density (enabled by the group velocity delay). The technique is applied to 1.5-cm-long plasma structures, without density ambiguity in parameter scans with >2π phase jumps. The single-shot sensitivity in phase retrieval is demonstrated at 63 mrad, equivalent to a density-length product of 1.8·1015 cm -2 . This is an improvement of ×45 compared to group velocity analysis alone.

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