Enhancing Fusion Reactor Control Through Combined Plasma Management Techniques

los-alamos-trident-200-trillion-watt-laser-high-energy-density-plasmas-fusion-hgResearchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are advancing fusion technology by integrating two established plasma control methods-electron cyclotron current drive (ECCD) and resonant magnetic perturbations (RMP). This combination has shown promising results in improving plasma management, crucial for generating electricity through fusion.

The team's latest simulations, discussed in their recent publication in Nuclear Fusion, mark the first instance where ECCD and RMP have been used together experimentally. "We are exploring new frontiers with this approach, enhancing our control over plasma behavior," commented Qiming Hu, a PPPL staff research physicist and the paper's lead author.

One significant challenge in fusion energy production is managing edge-localized modes (ELMs), which can disrupt fusion reactions. By applying RMPs, researchers can create additional magnetic fields that help mitigate these disruptions. "These magnetic perturbations help manage plasma stability and are akin to turning on a light switch to generate magnetic islands within the plasma," explained Alessandro Bortolon, a principal research physicist at PPPL.

The ECCD technique, which involves directing microwave beams to the plasma's edge, has traditionally been used in the core. This novel approach at the edge allows for finer control over the magnetic islands' size, optimizing plasma stability without the high currents typically required. "It's like using a dimmer switch alongside the light switch, providing us with the ability to fine-tune the plasma environment," Hu added.

This research not only offers insights into the synergistic effects of ECCD and RMP but also suggests potential cost reductions for future commercial fusion reactors by lowering the necessary current for effective plasma control.

Image: Los Alamos 200-trillion watt laser, high-energy-density plasmas fusion. Credit:spacedaily.com

Source: spacedaily.com

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