Electron Cyclotron Heating and Suprathermal Electron Dynamics in the TCV Tokamak

This thesis is concerned with the physics of suprathermal electrons in thermonuclear, magnetically confined plasmas. Under a variety of conditions, in laboratory as well as space plasmas, the electron velocity distribution function is not in thermodynamic equilibrium owing to internal or external drives. Accordingly, the distribution function departs from the equilibrium Maxwellian, and in particular generally develops a high-energy tail. In tokamak plasmas, this occurs especially as a result of injection of high-power electromagnetic waves, used for heating and current drive, as well as a result of internal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) instabilities. The physics of these phenomena is intimately tied to the properties and dynamics of this suprathermal electron population. This motivates the development of instrumental apparatus to measure its properties as well as of numerical codes to simulate their dynamics. Both aspects are reflected in this thesis work, which features advanced instrumental development and experimental measurements as well as numerical modeling. The instrumental development consisted of the complete design of a spectroscopic and tomographic system of four multi-detector hard X-ray (HXR) cameras for the TCV tokamak. The goal is to measure bremsstrahlung emission from suprathermal electrons with energies in the 10-300 keV range, with the ultimate aim of providing the first full tomographic reconstruction at these energies in a noncircular plasma. In particular, suprathermal electrons are generated in TCV by a high-power electron cyclotron heating (ECH) system and are also observed in the presence of MHD events, such as sawtooth oscillations and disruptive instabilities. This diagnostic employs state-of-the-art solid-state detectors and is optimized for the tight space requirements of the TCV ports. It features a novel collimator concept that combines compactness and flexibility as well as full digital acquisition of the photon pulses, greatly enhancing its potential for full spectral analysis in high-fluency scenarios. Additional flexibility is afforded by the possibility to rotate the orientation of two of the cameras, permitting the crucial comparison of radiation emitted perpendicular and parallel to the primary magnetic field. The design of the HXR system was optimized through an extensive iterative simulation process with the aid of tomographic reconstruction codes as well as quasilinear Fokker-Planck modeling of ECH-driven TCV plasmas. In parallel, the selection of the detectors for this system was performed through comprehensive laboratory testing of several candidate detectors available on the market. While the design was completed in the course of the thesis work, commissioning of the system has only commenced recently with one of the four cameras installed on TCV. The first preliminary results, discussed in the last part of this thesis, include basic parameter scans of ECH wave-plasma interaction and the investigation of the dynamic response of suprathermal electrons to modulated ECH. In addition, the cameras possess the novel ability to discriminate against very high-energy γ-ray radiation that cannot be collimated and must thus be excluded from spatial distribution analysis. A basic study of the conditions for γ-ray suppression was conducted in preparation for future experiments. The Fokker-Planck modeling tool used in this diagnostic development was acquired through a collaboration with CEA-Cadarache, initially with the primary motivation of studying the simultaneous plasma heating by 2nd and 3rd harmonic electron cyclotron waves that is uniquely possible on TCV. This motivated a dedicated study, both theoretical and experimental, of one particular instance of this combined heating, which became a second primary subject of this thesis work. The particular scenario studied here is one in which a single ECH frequency is resonant at both harmonics in the same plasma. The primary objective of this study was to determine whether a synergy effect existed, permitting an enhancement of the intrinsically weak 3rd harmonic absorption by the suprathermal electrons generated at the 2nd harmonic resonance. An associated question was whether this effect, if it existed, was experimentally measurable or was in fact observed in TCV. The simulations performed in the course of this study indeed predict the existence of such a synergy, although the answer to the second question was ultimately negative, at least within the current technical limitations. This study has proven nevertheless highly valuable in providing new insight into the complex velocity-space dynamics that govern ECH wave-particle interaction and suprathermal electron dynamics.

Related material