New Research Suggests Promising Pathway for High Fusion Performance and Plasma Edge Instability Control on ITER (Physics)

Experiments demonstrate “grassy ELM” regime with high heating power and confinement 

Cooperative research between the DIII-D National Fusion Facility in USA and the Institute of Plasma Physics (ASIPP) of the Hefei Institutes of Physical Science (HFIPS) in China has identified a key approach to creating plasma conditions that will be necessary for steady-state operation of ITER.

This new approach shows promise in avoiding potential edge instabilities in the plasma that can pose increased plasma-material interaction challenges.

Plasma instabilities known as edge-localized modes (ELMs) are a challenge to stable operation of fusion reactors. Effective ELM control is particularly important in high-confinement, steady-state fusion plasmas such as ITER. The research at DIII-D and EAST found that maintaining high density at the edge of the plasma and a high density ratio between the pedestal bottom and top can reduce the severity of ELMs.

“Combining ELM control with high fusion performance will be critical for efficient operation of ITER and the power plants that come after it,” said XU Guosheng. “These results are an important step toward practical fusion energy.”

One approach to ELM control has been creating plasma conditions in which ELMs may occur, but are much smaller. Known as “grassy” ELMs, these conditions have been achieved on other devices, but often under parameters that are not suitable for large, long pulse devices like ITER. Experiments on DIII-D demonstrated a grassy ELM regime at an ITER-relevant pedestal collisionality (V*e = 0.15) with high heating power (>13MW) and high energy confinement (H98y2 up to 1.5).

Grassy ELM conditions also are especially suitable to efficient particle and heat exhaust from the tokamak – which passes through a device known as a divertor – as well as control of heavy ions that can interfere with the fusion reaction.

DIII-D is the largest magnetic fusion research facility in the U.S. and is operated by General Atomics (GA) as a national user facility for the DOE Office of Science. Similar conditions have been observed on the Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) in Hefei, China, which shares some important design features with ITER.

The compatibility of the high-performance grassy ELM regime with radiative divertor in a metal wall environment that will be needed on ITER has been demonstrated with innovative detachment feedback control techniques developed on EAST. The grassy ELM scenarios on EAST overlap those projected for ITER as well as the China Fusion Engineering Test Reactor (CFETR), a planned next-step device.

These new findings from DIII-D and EAST suggest a promising pathway toward addressing the challenges of maintaining high-performance fusion plasmas with mitigated ELMs in future devices such as ITER and CFETR.

This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the National Magnetic Confinement Fusion Energy R&D Program of China.

Featured image: Cooperative research between DIII-D and EAST found that maintaining high density at the edge of the plasma and a high density ratio between the pedestal bottom and top can reduce the severity of ELMs. (Image by XU Guosheng)


(1) Grassy ELM regime at low pedestal collisionality in high-power tokamak plasma (2) First Evidence of Local (3) Promising High-Confinement Regime for Steady-State Fusion (4) Stationary high-performance grassy ELM regime in East (5) Divertor impurity seeding with a new feedback control scheme for maintaining good core confinement in grassy-ELM H-mode regime with tungsten monoblock divertor in EAST

Provided by Chinese Academy of Sciences

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s