Theses Doctoral

GPU-based, Microsecond Latency, Hecto-Channel MIMO Feedback Control of Magnetically Confined Plasmas

Rath, Nikolaus

Feedback control has become a crucial tool in the research on magnetic confinement of plasmas for achieving controlled nuclear fusion. This thesis presents a novel plasma feedback control system that, for the first time, employs a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) for microsecond-latency, real-time control computations. This novel application area for GPU computing is opened up by a new system architecture that is optimized for low-latency computations on less than kilobyte sized data samples as they occur in typical plasma control algorithms. In contrast to traditional GPU computing approaches that target complex, high-throughput computations with massive amounts of data, the architecture presented in this thesis uses the GPU as the primary processing unit rather than as an auxiliary of the CPU, and data is transferred from A-D/D-A converters directly into GPU memory using peer-to-peer PCI Express transfers. The described design has been implemented in a new, GPU-based control system for the High-Beta Tokamak -- Extended Pulse (HBT-EP) device. The system is built from commodity hardware and uses an NVIDIA GeForce GPU and D-TACQ A-D/D-A converters providing a total of 96 input and 64 output channels. The system is able to run with sampling periods down to 4 μs and latencies down to 8 μs. The GPU provides a total processing power of 1.5 x 10^12 floating point operations per second. To illustrate the performance and versatility of both the general architecture and concrete implementation, a new control algorithm has been developed. The algorithm is designed for the control of multiple rotating magnetic perturbations in situations where the plasma equilibrium is not known exactly and features an adaptive system model: instead of requiring the rotation frequencies and growth rates embedded in the system model to be set a priori, the adaptive algorithm derives these parameters from the evolution of the perturbation amplitudes themselves. This results in non-linear control computations with high computational demands, but is handled easily by the GPU based system. Both digital processing latency and an arbitrary multi-pole response of amplifiers and control coils is fully taken into account for the generation of control signals. To separate sensor signals into perturbed and equilibrium components without knowledge of the equilibrium fields, a new separation method based on biorthogonal decomposition is introduced and used to derive a filter that performs the separation in real-time. The control algorithm has been implemented and tested on the new, GPU-based feedback control system of the HBT-EP tokamak. In this instance, the algorithm was set up to control four rotating n=1 perturbations at different poloidal angles. The perturbations were treated as coupled in frequency but independent in amplitude and phase, so that the system effectively controls a helical n=1 perturbation with unknown poloidal spectrum. Depending on the plasma's edge safety factor and rotation frequency, the control system is shown to be able to suppress the amplitude of the dominant 8 kHz mode by up to 60% or amplify the saturated amplitude by a factor of up to two. Intermediate feedback phases combine suppression and amplification with a speed up or slow down of the mode rotation frequency. Increasing feedback gain results in the excitation of an additional, slowly rotating 1.4 kHz mode without further effects on the 8 kHz mode. The feedback performance is found to exceed previous results obtained with an FPGA- and Kalman-filter based control system without requiring any tuning of system model parameters. Experimental results are compared with simulations based on a combination of the Boozer surface current model and the Fitzpatrick-Aydemir model. Within the subset of phenomena that can be represented by the model as well as determined experimentally, qualitative agreement is found.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
Thesis Advisors
Mauel, Michael
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
January 14, 2013