Recent advances in the LHD experiment
In the first four years of the LHD experiment, several encouraging results have emerged, the most significant of which is that MHD stability and good transport are compatible in the inward shifted axis configuration. The observed energy confinement at this optimal configuration is consistent with ISS95 scaling with an enhancement factor of 1.5. The confinement enhancement over the smaller heliotron devices is attributed to the high edge temperature. We find that the plasma with an average beta of 3% is stable in this configuration, even though the theoretical stability conditions of Mercier modes and pressure driven low-n modes are violated. In the low density discharges heated by NBI and ECR, internal transport barrier (ITB) and an associated high central temperature (> 10 keV) are seen. The radial electric field measured in these discharges is positive (electron root) and expected to play a key role in the formation of the ITB. The positive electric field is also found to suppress the ion thermal diffusivity as predicted by neoclassical transport theory. The width of the externally imposed island (n/m = 1/1) is found to decrease when the plasma is collisionless with finite beta and increase when the plasma is collisional. The ICRF heating in LHD is successful and a high energy tail (up to 500 keV) has been detected for minority ion heating, demonstrating good confinement of the high energy particles. The magnetic field line structure unique to the heliotron edge configuration is confirmed by measuring the plasma density and temperature profiles on the divertor plate. A long pulse (2 min) discharge with an ICRF power of 0.4 MW has been demonstrated and the energy confinement characteristics are almost the same as those in short pulse discharges.