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Title: The zero-turbulence manifold in fusion plasmas
Author: Highcock, Edmund
ISNI:       0000 0004 2735 0713
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The transport of heat that results from turbulence is a major factor limiting the temperature gradient, and thus the performance, of fusion devices. We use nonlinear simulations to show that a toroidal equilibrium scale sheared flow can completely suppress the turbulence across a wide range of flow gradient and temperature gradient values. We demonstrate the existence of a bifurcation across this range whereby the plasma may transition from a low flow gradient and temperature gradient state to a higher flow gradient and temperature gradient state. We show further that the maximum temperature gradient that can be reached by such a transition is limited by the existence, at high flow gradient, of subcritical turbulence driven by the parallel velocity gradient (PVG). We use linear simulations and analytic calculations to examine the properties of the transiently growing modes which give rise to this subcritical turbulence, and conclude that there may be a critical value of the ratio of the PVG to the suppressing perpendicular gradient of the velocity (in a tokamak this ratio is equal to q/ε where q is the magnetic safety factor and ε the inverse aspect ra- tio) below which the PVG is unable to drive subcritical turbulence. In light of this, we use nonlinear simulations to calculate, as a function of three parameters (the perpendicular flow shear, q/ε and the temperature gradient), the surface within that parameter space which divides the regions where turbulence can and cannot be sustained: the zero- turbulence manifold. We are unable to conclude that there is in fact a critical value of q/ε below which PVG-driven turbulence is eliminated. Nevertheless, we demonstrate that at low values of q/ε, the maximum critical temperature gradient that can be reached without generating turbulence (and thus, we infer, the maximum temperature gradient that could be reached in the transport bifurcation) is dramatically increased. Thus, we anticipate that a fusion device for which, across a significant portion of the minor radius, the magnetic shear is low, the ratio q/ε is low and the toroidal flow shear is strong, will achieve high levels of energy confinement and thus high performance.
Supervisor: Schekochihin, Alexander Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Physics ; plasma physics ; nuclear fusion ; turbulence ; subcritical turbulence