Research on the National Spherical Torus Experiment, NSTX, targets physics understanding needed for extrapolation to a steady-state ST Fusion Nuclear Science Facility, pilot plant, or DEMO. The unique ST operational space is leveraged to test physics theories for next-step tokamak operation, including ITER. Present research also examines implications for the coming device upgrade, NSTX-U. An energy confinement time, τE, scaling unified for varied wall conditions exhibits a strong improvement of BTτE with decreased electron collisionality, accentuated by lithium (Li) wall conditioning. This result is consistent with nonlinear microtearing simulations that match the experimental electron diffusivity quantitatively and predict reduced electron heat transport at lower collisionality. Beam-emission spectroscopy measurements in the steep gradient region of the pedestal indicate the poloidal correlation length of turbulence of about ten ion gyroradii increases at higher electron density gradient and lower Ti gradient, consistent with turbulence caused by trapped electron instabilities. Density fluctuations in the pedestal top region indicate ion-scale microturbulence compatible with ion temperature gradient and/or kinetic ballooning mode instabilities. Plasma characteristics change nearly continuously with increasing Li evaporation and edge localized modes (ELMs) stabilize due to edge density gradient alteration. Global mode stability studies show stabilizing resonant kinetic effects are enhanced at lower collisionality, but in stark contrast have almost no dependence on collisionality when the plasma is off-resonance. Combined resistive wall mode radial and poloidal field sensor feedback was used to control n = 1 perturbations and improve stability. The disruption probability due to unstable resistive wall modes (RWMs) was surprisingly reduced at very high βN/li > 10 consistent with low frequency magnetohydrodynamic spectroscopy measurements of mode stability. Greater instability seen at intermediate βN is consistent with decreased kinetic RWM stabilization. A model-based RWM state-space controller produced long-pulse discharges exceeding βN = 6.4 and βN/li = 13. Precursor analysis shows 96.3% of disruptions can be predicted with 10 ms warning and a false positive rate of only 2.8%. Disruption halo currents rotate toroidally and can have significant toroidal asymmetry. Global kinks cause measured fast ion redistribution, with full-orbit calculations showing redistribution from the core outward and towards V∥/V = 1 where destabilizing compressional Alfvén eigenmode resonances are expected. Applied 3D fields altered global Alfvén eigenmode characteristics. High-harmonic fast-wave (HHFW) power couples to field lines across the entire width of the scrape-off layer, showing the importance of the inclusion of this phenomenon in designing future RF systems. The snowflake divertor configuration enhanced by radiative detachment showed large reductions in both steady-state and ELM heat fluxes (ELMing peak values down from 19 MW m-2 to less than 1.5 MW m-2). Toroidal asymmetry of heat deposition was observed during ELMs or by 3D fields. The heating power required for accessing H-mode decreased by 30% as the triangularity was decreased by moving the X-point to larger radius, consistent with calculations of the dependence of E × B shear in the edge region on ion heat flux and X-point radius. Co-axial helicity injection reduced the inductive start-up flux, with plasmas ramped to 1 MA requiring 35% less inductive flux. Non-inductive current fraction (NICF) up to 65% is reached experimentally with neutral beam injection at plasma current Ip = 0.7 MA and between 70-100% with HHFW application at Ip = 0.3 MA. NSTX-U scenario development calculations project 100% NICF for a large range of 0.6 < Ip (MA) < 1.35.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nuclear and High Energy Physics
- Condensed Matter Physics