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Title: Material Surface Characteristics and Plasma Performance in the Lithium Tokamak Experiment
Authors: Lucia, Matthew James
Advisors: Kaita, Robert
Contributors: Plasma Physics Department
Keywords: lithium
Subjects: Plasma physics
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The performance of a tokamak plasma and the characteristics of the surrounding plasma facing component (PFC) material surfaces strongly influence each other. Despite this relationship, tokamak plasma physics has historically been studied more thoroughly than PFC surface physics. The disparity is particularly evident in lithium PFC research: decades of experiments have examined the effect of lithium PFCs on plasma performance, but the understanding of the lithium surface itself is much less complete. This latter information is critical to identifying the mechanisms by which lithium PFCs affect plasma performance. This research focused on such plasma-surface interactions in the Lithium Tokamak Experiment (LTX), a spherical torus designed to accommodate solid or liquid lithium as the primary PFC. Surface analysis was accomplished via the novel Materials Analysis and Particle Probe (MAPP) diagnostic system. In a series of experiments on LTX, the MAPP x-ray photoelectron spectroscopy (XPS) and thermal desorption spectroscopy (TDS) capabilities were used for in vacuo interrogation of PFC samples. This represented the first application of XPS and TDS for in situ surface analysis of tokamak PFCs. Surface analysis indicated that the thin (d ~ 100nm) evaporative lithium PFC coatings in LTX were converted to Li2O due to oxidizing agents in both the residual vacuum and the PFC substrate. Conversion was rapid and nearly independent of PFC temperature, forming a majority Li2O surface within minutes and an entirely Li2O surface within hours. However, Li2O PFCs were still capable of retaining hydrogen and sequestering impurities until the Li2O was further oxidized to LiOH, a process that took weeks. For hydrogen retention, Li2O PFCs retained H+ from LTX plasma discharges, but no LiH formation was observed. Instead, results implied that H+ was only weakly-bound, such that it almost completely outgassed as H2 within minutes. For impurity sequestration, LTX plasma performance—ascertained from plasma current and density measurements—progressively improved as plasma carbon and oxygen impurity levels fell. This was true for PFC conditioning by vacuum baking and argon glow discharge cleaning, as well as by lithium evaporation. Some evidence suggested that impurity sequestration was more important than hydrogen retention in enhancing LTX plasma performance. In contrast with expectations for lithium PFCs, heating the Li2O PFCs in LTX caused increased plasma impurity levels that tended to reduce plasma performance.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Plasma Physics

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