Infoscience

Thesis

The role of the sheath in magnetized plasma turbulence and flows

Controlled nuclear fusion could provide our society with a clean, safe, and virtually inexhaustible source of electric power production. The tokamak has proven to be capable of producing large amounts of fusion reactions by confining magnetically the fusion fuel at sufficiently high density and temperature, thus in the plasma state. Because of turbulence, however, high temperature plasma reaches the outermost region of the tokamak, the Scrape-Off Layer (SOL), which features open magnetic field lines that channel particles and heat into a dedicated region of the vacuum vessel. The plasma dynamics in the SOL is crucial in determining the performance of tokamak devices, and constitutes one of the greatest uncertainties in the success of the fusion program. In the last few years, the development of numerical codes based on reduced fluid models has provided a tool to study turbulence in open field line configurations. In particular, the GBS (Global Braginskii Solver) code has been developed at CRPP and is used to perform global, three-dimensional, full-n, flux-driven simulations of plasma turbulence in open field lines. Reaching predictive capabilities is an outstanding challenge that involves a proper treatment of the plasma-wall interactions at the end of the field lines, to well describe the particle and energy losses. This involves the study of plasma sheaths, namely the layers forming at the interface between plasmas and solid surfaces, where the drift and quasineutrality approximations break down. This is an investigation of general interest, as sheaths are present in all laboratory plasmas. This thesis presents progress in the understanding of plasma sheaths and their coupling with the turbulence in the main plasma. A kinetic code is developed to study the magnetized plasma-wall transition region and derive a complete set of analytical boundary conditions that supply the sheath physics to fluid codes. These boundary conditions are implemented in the GBS code and simulations of SOL turbulence are carried out to investigate the importance of the sheath in determining the equilibrium electric fields, intrinsic toroidal rotation, and SOL width, in different limited configurations. For each study carried out in this thesis, simple analytical models are developed to interpret the simulation results and reveal the fundamental mechanisms underlying the system dynamics. The electrostatic potential appears to be determined by a combined effect of sheath physics and electron adiabaticity. Intrinsic flows are driven by the sheath, while turbulence provides the mechanism for radial momentum transport. The position of the limiter can modify the turbulence properties in the SOL, thus playing an important role in setting the SOL width.

Related material