Ion temperature clamping in Wendelstein 7-X electron cyclotron heated plasmas


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The neoclassical transport optimization of the Wendelstein 7-X stellarator has not resulted in the predicted high energy confinement of gas fueled electron-cyclotron-resonance-heated (ECRH) plasmas as modelled in (Turkin et al 2011 Phys. Plasmas 18 022505) due to high levels of turbulent heat transport observed in the experiments. The electron-turbulent-heat transport appears non-stiff and is of the electron temperature gradient (ETG)/ion temperature gradient (ITG) type (Weir et al 2021 Nucl. Fusion 61 056001). As a result, the electron temperature T (e) can be varied freely from 1 keV-10 keV within the range of P (ECRH) = 1-7 MW, with electron density n (e) values from 0.1-1.5 x 10(20) m(-3). By contrast, in combination with the broad electron-to-ion energy-exchange heating profile in ECRH plasmas, ion-turbulent-heat transport leads to clamping of the central ion temperature at T (i) similar to 1.5 keV +/- 0.2 keV. In a dedicated ECRH power scan at a constant density of n (e) = 7 x 10(19) m(-3), an apparent 'negative ion temperature profile stiffness' was found in the central plasma for (r/a < 0.5), in which the normalized gradient backward difference T (i)/T (i) decreases with increasing ion heat flux. The experiment was conducted in helium, which has a higher radiative density limit compared to hydrogen, allowing a broader power scan. This 'negative stiffness' is due to a strong exacerbation of turbulent transport with an increasing ratio of T (e)/T (i) in this electron-heated plasma. This finding is consistent with electrostatic microinstabilities, such as ITG-driven turbulence. Theoretical calculations made by both linear and nonlinear gyro-kinetic simulations performed by the GENE code in the W7-X three-dimensional geometry show a strong enhancement of turbulence with an increasing ratio of T (e)/T (i). The exacerbation of turbulence with increasing T (e)/T (i) is also found in tokamaks and inherently enhances ion heat transport in electron-heated plasmas. This finding strongly affects the prospects of future high-performance gas-fueled ECRH scenarios in W7-X and imposes a requirement for turbulence-suppression techniques.
turbulent transport, electron heated plasmas, ion heat transport, neoclassically optimised stellarator, power balance, profile stiffness, ion temperature clamping, Electron cyclotron heating
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