Electrostatic instabilities and turbulence in a toroidal magnetized plasma

This Thesis aims at characterizing the linear properties of electrostatic drift instabilities arising in a toroidal plasma and the mechanisms leading to their development into turbulence. The experiments are performed on the TORoidal Plasma EXperiment (TORPEX) at CRPP-EPFL, Lausanne. The first part of the Thesis focuses on the identification of the nature of the instabilities observed in TORPEX, using a set of electrostatic probes, designed and built for this purpose. The global features of fluctuations, analyzed for different values of control parameters such as the magnetic field, the neutral gas pressure and the injected microwave power, are qualitatively similar in different experimental scenarios. The maximum of fluctuations is observed on the low field side, where the pressure gradient and the gradient of the magnetic field are co-linear, indicating that the curvature of the magnetic field lines has an important role in the destabilization of the waves. The power spectrum is dominated by electrostatic fluctuations with frequencies much lower than the ion cyclotron frequency. Taking advantage of the extended diagnostics coverage, the spectral properties of fluctuations are measured over the whole poloidal cross-section. Both drift and interchange instabilities develop and propagate on TORPEX, with the stability of both being affected by the curvature of the magnetic field. It is shown that modes of different nature are driven at separate locations over the plasma cross-section and that the wavenumber and frequency spectra, narrow at the location where the instabilities are generated, broaden during convection, suggesting an increase in the degree of turbulence. The transition from coherent to turbulent spectral features and the role of nonlinear coupling between modes in the development of turbulence are treated in the second part of this work. It is found that nonlinear mode-mode coupling is responsible for the redistribution of spectral energy from the dominant instabilities to other spectral components and that this mechanism is independent of the nature of the instabilities. Nonlinear interactions between the mode and its nonlinearly generated harmonics are responsible for the filling of the spectral regions between harmonics. Later in the development along the convection path, the unstable mode transfers energy to spectral components with significantly larger frequencies. This transfer of energy can be interpreted in the investigated plasma scenarios as a forward cascade in wavenumbers, with transfer of energy from large to small scales.

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