Ajay Chandrarajan Jayalekshmi
Microturbulence driven by plasma instabilities is in most cases the dominant cause of heat and particle loss from the core of magnetic confinement fusion devices and therefore presents a major challenge in achieving burning plasma conditions. The role of passing electron dynamics in turbulent transport driven by ion-scale microinstabilities, in particular Ion Temperature Gradient (ITG) and Trapped Electron Mode (TEM) instabilities, has been given relatively little attention. In first approximation, these particles, which are highly mobile along the confining magnetic field, are assumed to respond adiabatically to the low frequency ion-scale modes. However, near mode rational surfaces (MRSs), the non-adiabatic response of passing electrons becomes important and can no longer be neglected.
This non-adiabatic electron response actually has a destabilising effect and leads to generation of fine-structures located at the MRSs of each eigenmode. This thesis focuses on the effects of non-adiabatic response of passing electrons in tokamak core turbulence.
One such effect of non-adiabatic passing electrons that is of particular interest to this work is the self-interaction mechanism. It is essentially a process by which a microinstability eigenmode that is extended along the direction parallel to the magnetic field interacts non-linearly with itself, in turn generating E x B zonal flows. Unlike the usual picture of zonal flow drive in which microinstability eigenmodes coherently amplify the flow via modulational instabilities, the self-interaction drive of zonal flows from these eigenmodes are uncorrelated with each other. In the case of ITG driven turbulence, using novel statistical diagnostic methods, it is shown that the associated shearing rate of the fluctuating zonal flows therefore reduces as more toroidal modes are resolved in the simulation. In simulations accounting for the full toroidal domain, such an increase in the density of toroidal modes corresponds in fact to an increase in the system size, leading to a finite system size effect that is distinct from the other better known system size effects such as profile shearing or finite radial extend of the unstable region.
The study of non-adiabatic passing electron dynamics is pursued further to include more reactor relevant conditions such as collisions and background shear flow. It is found that, with increasing collisionality, electrons behave more adiabatic-like, especially the trapped electrons away from MRSs, thereby leading to a decrease in the growth rate of ITG eigenmodes. Furthermore, the shortened electron mean free path in presence of collisions leads to a radial broadening of the fine-structures at the MRS of corresponding eigenmodes. In nonlinear simulations, the turbulent flux levels decrease with increasing collisionality, as a result of the reduced drive from the less unstable ITG eigenmodes. The radial width of the fine structures at MRSs is found to reduce with increasing collisionality as a result of reduced nonlinear modification of the eigenmodes in turbulence simulations. A study of the effect of collisions on the self-interaction mechanism reveals that for physically relevant values of collisionality, the effect of self-interaction is still significant. A preliminary study of the effect of background E x B flow shear shows that the fine-structures associated with the non-adiabatic passing electron response persist even with finite background flow.EPFL