MHD spectroscopy of tokamak plasmas using Alfvén waves

Date

2020-03-16

Authors

Oliver, Henry James Churston

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Abstract

Alfvén waves are electromagnetic waves that occur in magnetised plasmas. Alfvén waves are routinely observed in tokamaks — toroidal devices that confine plasma using magnets. Energetic ions that are used to heat the plasma within tokamaks can drive the Alfvén waves unstable. Additionally, alpha particles produced in fusion reactions may destabilise the wave. Alfvén waves with sufficiently high amplitudes can eject energetic particles from the plasma, damaging the reactor and decreasing fusion efficiency. When these waves are not strong enough to eject particles from the plasma, their benign behaviour can be used to diagnose the plasma. This technique is known as magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) spectroscopy.

In this thesis, we outline three new techniques of MHD spectroscopy that we have developed. The first new method of MHD spectroscopy was developed in plasmas composed of hydrogen and deuterium in the Mega Ampere Spherical Tokamak (MAST). Compressional Alfvén eigenmodes (CAEs) and global Alfvén eigenmodes (GAEs) were suppressed in plasmas with high hydrogen concentrations. At the highest hydrogen concentrations investigated, high frequency ion-ion hybrid waves appeared. We used a 1D model of the refractive index and wave-particle resonances to explain these observations and estimate the relative ion concentration at which the spectrum of excited waves changed. These estimates agreed with experimental observations, suggesting the spectrum of excited waves can be used to diagnose the relative ion concentrations for plasmas with two ion species.

The second new form of MHD spectroscopy was developed using observations of axisymmetric modes in experiments on the Joint European Torus (JET). Axisymmetric modes do not change in the toroidal direction and are driven unstable by energy gradients in the fast particle distribution function. Therefore, we can use observations of the axisymmetric mode to infer information about the gradient of the fast particle energy distribution function. We explained how these axisymmetric modes can exist without heavy damping. We also examined how the elongation of the plasma column modifies the mode using numerical and analytical tools.

The final MHD spectroscopic technique was developed for JET plasmas injected with pellets of frozen deuterium, which are used to refuel the plasma core. We demonstrated how key pellet parameters can be inferred from dramatic changes to the Alfvén eigenfrequencies that we observed in JET. MHD spectroscopy of pellet injected plasmas was enabled by generalising two 3D MHD codes to incorporate 3D density profiles. 3D density profiles were generated using a model for the expansion of the pellet wake along a magnetic field line derived from the fluid equations. From the change in mode frequency, we estimate the density of the pellet wake and the time-scale for poloidal homogenisation of the wake. Before presenting these studies, we introduce the basics of fusion, tokamaks, and the models used to describe tokamak plasmas. We then discuss the MHD waves that we will use for MHD spectroscopy of tokamak plasmas, and how these waves are excited by fast particles. The three new methods of MHD spectroscopy are then discussed.

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