Stability and toroidal rotation properties of highly shaped plasmas in the TCV tokamak

Magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) instabilities and plasma rotation have various impacts on particle and thermal transport in toroidal plasmas. MHD instabilities degrade the confinement, limit the maximum achievable plasma pressure, and can lead to plasma disruptions. Plasma rotation is observed to have beneficial effects on global instabilities and improve confinement through the reduction of turbulent transport. Plasma rotation and stability are strongly coupled, influencing each other in a complicated fashion. The Tokamak à Configuration Variable (TCV), unique in its plasma shaping capabilities, is equipped with a flexible auxiliary heating system (ECRH) and several diagnostics allowing us to study the effect of the plasma shape on stability in a wide range of scenarios. TCV also provides for measurements of carbon toroidal velocity in the absence of external momentum input, an experimental condition poorly studied in the past but of major interest for an accurate prediction of the toroidal rotation in future large experiments. The work presented in this thesis may be divided into two parts. In the first part, we focus on plasma instabilities appearing in three different TCV scenarios. These instabilities limit the achievable maximum pressure and current density. New features and previously unnoticed dependencies are shown. In the second part of this thesis, we experimentally study the plasma rotation properties and their relation with the plasma parameters and MHD activity. The new insight on spontaneous rotation may help in constructing a complete model of plasma rotation in tokamaks. During the initial plasma current rise, edge MHD instabilities are commonly observed in most tokamaks when the edge safety factor qa approaches low rational values. These instabilities may lead to plasma disruptions and can effectively limit the edge safety factor to qa > 3, which is above the well-known operational limit qa ≥ 2. We report on a detailed analysis of the MHD modes leading to disruptions and show experimental evidence of the key role of mode coupling. The beneficial effect of plasma shaping on current rise experiments was early noted in the TCV operation. In this thesis we characterise the effect of the plasma shape on the instability, showing how plasma elongation and triangularity (positive and negative) act as stabilising factors. The complex shape dependence of such MHD modes is interpreted on the basis of the theory of coupled tearing modes. Three stabilising mechanisms linked with plasma shaping are shown to be important for TCV and likely to other tokamaks. Sawteeth, which are central relaxation oscillations common to most tokamak scenarios, also have a significant effect on central plasma parameters. In highly elongated TCV discharges heated with far off-axis ECRH, the sawtooth oscillations are observed to disappear and to be replaced by a continuous MHD mode resonant on the q = 1 surface. The combination of a flat current profile and small q = 1 radius determines the change in the plasma stability, which we study using ideal and resistive MHD models. Plasmas with internal transport barriers (ITBs) are routinely produced in TCV using high power ECRH and current drive. A variety of MHD activity is observed during these discharges including classical m/n = 3/1 and neoclassical m/n = 2/1 tearing modes, and more exotic q = 2 pseudo-sawteeth central relaxations. Disruptive modes are observed in ITB plasmas with strong reverse magnetic shear. In general, the MHD instabilities limit the maximum achievable plasma pressure. The experimental β-limit in this scenario is observed to depend strongly on the peaking of the electron pressure profile, in agreement with the ideal MHD theory. The properties of the toroidal carbon impurity rotation in Ohmic limited L-mode plasmas are studied in detail in stationary conditions. The dependence and scaling of the toroidal velocity with plasma parameters, such as the plasma current and density, are highlighted, as well as the effect of the sawtooth activity on the rotation profile. We show that the toroidal rotation in TCV is generally directed in the counter-current or electron diamagnetic drift direction. We also compare the experimental results with the neoclassical prediction for stationary toroidal rotation in absence of external momentum input. Angular momentum relaxations are observed in TCV Ohmic plasmas. Large magnetic islands cause strong losses of angular momentum, flattening the rotation profile. Once the MHD mode has disappeared, the stationary angular velocity profile is restored over a typical time scale, 100–200 ms, providing experimental evidence of the spontaneous torque spinning the plasma column. We show that we can reproduce the phenomena of "toroidal spin-up" and rotation inversion observed in TCV Ohmic plasmas with a phenomenological momentum transport model. We infer transport coefficients, such as the momentum diffusivity, and compare them with theoretical predictions.


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