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Theses Doctoral

Relationship between locked modes and disruptions in the DIII-D tokamak

Sweeney, Ryan Myles

This thesis is organized into three body chapters: (1) the first use of naturally rotating tearing modes to diagnose intrinsic error fields is presented with experimental results from the EXTRAP T2R reversed field pinch, (2) a large scale study of locked modes (LMs) with rotating precursors in the DIII-D tokamak is reported, and (3) an in depth study of LM induced thermal collapses on a few DIII-D discharges is presented. The amplitude of naturally rotating tearing modes (TMs) in EXTRAP T2R is modulated in the presence of a resonant field (given by the superposition of the resonant intrinsic error field, and, possibly, an applied, resonant magnetic perturbation (RMP)). By scanning the amplitude and phase of the RMP and observing the phase-dependent amplitude modulation of the resonant, naturally rotating TM, the corresponding resonant error field is diagnosed. A rotating TM can decelerate and lock in the laboratory frame, under the effect of an electromagnetic torque due to eddy currents induced in the wall. These locked modes often lead to a disruption, where energy and particles are lost from the equilibrium configuration on a timescale of a few to tens of milliseconds in the DIII-D tokamak. In fusion reactors, disruptions pose a problem for the longevity of the reactor. Thus, learning to predict and avoid them is important. A database was developed consisting of 2000 DIII-D discharges exhibiting TMs that lock. The database was used to study the evolution, the nonlinear effects on equilibria, and the disruptivity of locked and quasi-stationary modes with poloidal and toroidal mode numbers m=2 and n=1 at DIII-D. The analysis of 22,500 discharges shows that more than 18% of disruptions present signs of locked or quasi-stationary modes with rotating precursors. A parameter formulated by the plasma internal inductance l_i divided by the safety factor at 95% of the toroidal flux, q_95, is found to exhibit predictive capability over whether a locked mode will cause a disruption or not, and does so up to hundreds of milliseconds before the disruption. Within 20 ms of the disruption, the shortest distance between the island separatrix and the unperturbed last closed flux surface, referred to as d_edge, performs comparably to l_i/q_95 in its ability to discriminate disruptive locked modes, and it also correlates well with the duration of the locked mode. On average, and within errors, the n=1 perturbed field grows exponentially in the final 50 ms before a disruption, however, the island width cannot discern whether a LM will disrupt or not up to 20 ms before the disruption. A few discharges are selected to analyze the evolution of the electron temperature profile in the presence of multiple coexisting locked modes during partial and full thermal quenches. Partial thermal quenches are often an initial, distinct stage in the full thermal quench caused by radiation, conduction, or convection losses. Here we explore the fundamental mechanism that causes the partial quench. Near the onset of partial thermal quenches, locked islands are observed to align in a unique way, or island widths are observed to grow above a threshold. Energy analysis on one discharge suggests that about half of the energy is lost in the divertor region. In discharges with minimum values of the safety factor above 1.2, and with current profiles expected to be classically stable, locked modes are observed to self-stabilize by inducing a full thermal quench, possibly by double tearing modes that remove the pressure gradient across the island, thus removing the neoclassical drive.

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More Information

Academic Units
Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics
Thesis Advisors
Volpe, Francesco
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
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