Investigating profile stiffness and critical gradients in shaped TCV discharges using local gyrokinetic simulations of turbulent transport
The experimental observation made on the TCV tokamak of a significant confinement improvement in plasmas with negative triangularity (delta < 0) compared to those with standard positive triangularity has been interpreted in terms of different degrees of profile stiffness (Sauter et al 2014 Phys. Plasmas 21 055906) and/or different critical gradients. Employing the Eulerian gyrokinetic code GENE (Jenko et al 2000 Phys. Plasmas 7 1904), profile stiffness and critical gradients are studied under TCV relevant conditions. For the considered experimental discharges, trapped electron modes (TEMs) and electron temperature gradient (ETG) modes are the dominant microinstabilities, with the latter providing a significant contribution to the non-linear electron heat fluxes near the plasma edge. Two series of simulations with different levels of realism are performed, addressing the question of profile stiffness at various radial locations. Retaining finite collisionality, impurities and electromagnetic effects, as well as the physical electron-to-ion mass ratio are all necessary in order to approach the experimental flux measurements. However, flux-tube simulations are unable to fully reproduce the TCV results, pointing towards the need to carry out radially nonlocal (global) simulations, i.e. retaining finite machine size effects, in a future study. Some conclusions about the effect of triangularity can nevertheless be drawn based on the flux-tube results. In particular, the importance of considering the sensitivity to both temperature and density gradient is shown. The flux tube results show an increase of the critical gradients towards the edge, further enhanced when d < 0, and they also appear to indicate a reduction of profile stiffness towards plasma edge.