Infoscience

Thesis

Pedestal Characteristics and MHD Stability of H-Mode Plasmas in TCV

The tokamak à configuration variable (TCV) is unique in its ability to create a variety of plasma shapes and to heat the electron population in high density regimes using microwave power at the third harmonic of the electron cyclotron frequency. In the frame of this thesis, the impact of plasma shaping and heating on the properties of the edge transport barrier (ETB) in the high confinement mode (H-mode) was studied. This mode of operation is foreseen as one of the reference scenarios for ITER, the International Tokamak Experimental Reactor, which is being built to demonstrate the feasibility of thermonuclear fusion using magnetic confinement. A feature of H-mode regime operation are edge localized modes (ELMs), instabilities driven by the steep pressure gradients that form in the plasma edge region due to a transport barrier. During an ELM event, energy and particles are expelled from the plasma in a short burst. This will cause serious problems with respect to the heat load on plasma facing components in a tokamak of the size of ITER. Understanding of the phenomena associated with ELMs is thus required and dedicated investigations of their theory and experimental observations are carried out in many laboratories worldwide. This thesis presents several experimental and numerical investigations of tokamak behavior for configurations where the plasma edge plays an important role. From the experimental viewpoint, studies of transport barriers are challenging, as plasma parameters change strongly within a narrow spatial region. As part of the work presented here, the TCV Thomson scattering system was upgraded to meet the requirements for diagnosing electron temperature and density with high spatial resolution in the region of internal and external transport barriers. Simultaneously, the data analysis was significantly improved to cope with statistical uncertainties and alleviate eventual systematic errors. For measurements of the time evolution of density and temperature profile during the ELM cycle, the low repetition rate of the lasers used for Thomson scattering is a limiting. Although the system on TCV comprises 3 laser units that may be triggered in sequence with time separations down to 1 ms, time evolution over longer periods can only be reconstructed from repetitive events. In this context, an adjustment of the laser trigger to improve the synchronization with the ELM event is an advantage. A method was developed and implemented to generate a synchronizing trigger sequence, by a real-time monitoring of the D-alpha emission, which provides a marker for the ELM event. Recently, a "snowflake" (SF) divertor configuration, proposed as a possible solution to reduce the plasma-wall interaction by changing the divertor's poloidal magnetic field topology, was generated, for the first time, in TCV. A numerical code (KINX), based on a magnetohydrodynamic model (ideal MHD), was used to investigate the stability limits of this configuration under H-mode conditions and compare them with a similar standard single-null equilibrium. In a series of experiments, improved energy confinement was found and explained by improved stability of the edge region in the SF configuration. The influence of the pedestal structure in ELMy H-mode plasmas on the energy confinement and on ELM energy losses was investigated. The different ELM regimes found in TCV were analyzed, in particular the transition between type-III to type-I ELMs. The operational boundary of each ELM regime was characterized and verified by ideal MHD stability simulations for the ETB region. Recent studies on the scaling of the pedestal width with normalized poloidal pressure were confirmed. Using the capabilities of TCV, the influence of plasma shaping on pedestal parameters and MHD stability limits was investigated. In the past, models were developed to describe the onset of type-I ELMs, which are associated with modes in the ETB region arising from a coupling of pressure- and current-driven instabilities (coupled kink-ballooning modes). Experimental studies were performed to trace the temporal evolution of pedestal parameters characterizing the ETB during an ELM cycle. The results of these experiments were analyzed using information from MHD stability calculations. It is concluded that these models are capable of predicting limits as necessary conditions for ELM activity, but are not sufficient to fully explain ELM triggering.

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