Overview of recent and current research on the TCV tokamak
Through a diverse research programme, the Tokamak a Configuration Variable (TCV) addresses physics issues and develops tools for ITER and for the longer term goals of nuclear fusion, relying especially on its extreme plasma shaping and electron cyclotron resonance heating (ECRH) launching flexibility and preparing for an ECRH and NBI power upgrade. Localized edge heating was unexpectedly found to decrease the period and relative energy loss of edge localized modes (ELMs). Successful ELM pacing has been demonstrated by following individual ELM detection with an ECRH power cut before turning the power back up to trigger the next ELM, the duration of the cut determining the ELM period. Negative triangularity was also seen to reduce the ELM energy release. H-mode studies have focused on the L-H threshold dependence on the main ion species and on the divertor leg length. Both L- and H-modes have been explored in the snowflake configuration with emphasis on edge measurements, revealing that the heat flux to the strike points on the secondary separatrix increases as the X-points approach each other, well before they coalesce. In L-mode, a systematic scan of the auxiliary power deposition profile, with no effect on confinement, has ruled it out as the cause of confinement degradation. An ECRH power absorption observer based on transmitted stray radiation was validated for eventual polarization control. A new profile control methodology was introduced, relying on real-time modelling to supplement diagnostic information; the RAPTOR current transport code in particular has been employed for joint control of the internal inductance and central temperature. An internal inductance controller using the ohmic transformer has also been demonstrated. Fundamental investigations of neoclassical tearing mode (NTM) seed island formation by sawtooth crashes and of NTM destabilization in the absence of a sawtooth trigger were carried out. Both stabilizing and destabilizing agents (electron cyclotron current drive on or inside the q = 1 surface, respectively) were used to pace sawtooth oscillations, permitting precise control of their period. Locking of the sawtooth period to a pre-defined ECRH modulation period was also demonstrated. Sawtooth control has permitted nearly failsafe NTM prevention when combined with backup NTM stabilization by ECRH.