Kinetic modeling of scrape-off layer plasmas
Electron transport along open field lines in the diverted scrape-off layer of a tokamak is studied numerically via a kinetic Fokker-Planck approach. The method allows calculation of the distribution function in a situation where large parallel temperature gradients are maintained by collisional relaxation and, at the same time, superthermal electrons stream freely from the midplane of the plasma to the target-sheath boundary. The method also allows calculation of the self-consistent electrostatic field associated with parallel gradients in the distribution function, as well as the potential drop across the target/sheath boundary, where the latter is calculated to enforce appropriate boundary conditions at the target, although the sheath itself is not resolved. The kinetic results are compared to classical fluid results for the case of a simple (nonradiative) divertor. The kinetic solutions exhibit an enhanced superthermal electron population in the vicinity of the target, which results in a larger sheath energy transmission factor, a lower bulk electron temperature,and a smaller sheath potential drop. The sheath potential largely determines the energy with which ions impact the target, thereby affecting the rate of target erosion. Ionization rates and radiation rates from impurities in the vicinity of the target also depend strongly on the local electron temperature and can be sensitive to superthermal tails. (C) 1996 American Institute of Physics.