Étude du transport d'énergie thermique dans les plasmas du tokamak à configuration variable au moyen de chauffage électronique cyclotronique

The development of controlled thermonuclear fusion, a quasi-unlimited energy source suitable for large scale electricity production, is one of the main goals of plasma physics research. Among the directions explored to date, the use of toroidal devices called tokamaks to create and confine hot plasmas using strong magnetic fields is particularly promising. The energy used to heat the plasma must remain well confined in order to achieve plasma temperatures higher than one hundred millon degrees for a sufficiently long period to obtain numerous fusion reactions. In the frame of efficient electricity production, maximising the energy confinement is also essential to achieve the required temperature with the lowest heating power. In tokamak plasmas, energy losses are mainly due to radiation and radial energy transport from the plasma core to the edge. A significant fraction of plasma physics research is therefore dedicated to the study of radial transport in tokamaks and the exploration of new operation regimes characterised by a low transport level. The development and optimisation of diagnostics used to observe plasmas is also part of this work. This thesis work, performed on the Tokamak à Configuration Variable (TCV) in Lausanne, covers the implementation and exploitation of a multi-channel soft X-ray detector with high spatial and temporal resolution, together with the development of the tomographic inversion routines used for data analysis. The detector, comprised of two superposed wire chambers, has been tested and calibrated using an X-ray source and then installed onto the tokamak. The position of the detector was chosen such as to observe the whole plasma cross-section with maximum spatial resolution leading to high quality tomographic inversions. A mobile absorber holder was installed between the plasma and the wire chambers. The energy range of the soft X-ray emission observed by the detector was thus chosen by selecting the appropriate absorber. These various features have made possible the use of the detector for numerous studies and in particular for the spatial and temporal characterisation of the plasma internal transport barrier formation. Plasma shaping abilities covering a wide range of plasma elongations and triangularities, including negative values, are one of the strengths of the TCV tokamak. For instance, plasmas with elongated cross-sections offer higher energy confinement as well as higher plasma current and pressure limits. However, the increase of the plasma vertical instability growth rate with elongation makes the vertical control of elongated plasmas difficult, in particular if the plasma current profile is too peaked. As the current profile is usually peaked for low plasma currents, current profile broadening is required there to achieve high elongation. During this thesis, a current profile broadening method based on temperature profile modification by localised EC heating has been studied in detail. The mechanism of this method has been documented and the optimal conditions for the EC power deposition determined. Using these conditions, the TCV operational space has been extended towards higher elongation at low current. The highest elongation obtained at low current has been increased by over 25% permitting the exploration of the plasma transport properties in this regime. The flexibility of the TCV EC heating system has also been used to investigate radial electron heat transport in L-mode plasmas. For the first time, the normalised temperature gradient has been varied by a factor of four and its influence on electron heat transport has been separated from that of the electron temperature. Electron heat transport increases strongly with the normalised temperature gradient, for values between 6 and 10, and then becomes independent of this parameter. In addition, electron heat transport increases with increasing electron temperature, decreasing density and increasing effective charge. The electron heat transport dependence on these three parameters can be cast as a single dependence on the plasma collisionality. TCV shaping abilities have then been used to test the influence of plasma triangularity. The main variations of the level of electron heat transport are described by a decrease of the electron heat diffusivity towards negative triangularity and high collisionality. At constant collisionality, electron heat transport is two times lower at a negative triangularity of –0.4 than at a positive triangularity of +0.4. Concerning micro-instabilities, gyro-fluid and gyro-kinetic simulations indicate that TEM and ITG instabilities are at play in these plasmas. The good qualitative agreement between the observed experimental dependencies and the predictions of simulations suggests strongly that the TEM instabilities are involved in the transport of electron heat. The experimental study provides dependable scaling of the electron heat transport on plasma parameters that can now be used to test the prediction of transport simulations. New elements such as the saturation of electron heat transport at high values of the normalised temperature gradient and the decrease of electron heat transport towards negative triangularities have been demonstrated.

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