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Title: Runaway electrons in tokamaks
Authors: Liu, Chang
Advisors: Brennan, Dylan P
Bhattacharjee, Amitava
Contributors: Plasma Physics Department
Keywords: cherenkov radiation
runaway electron
synthetic diagnostic
wave-particle interaction
whistler wave
Subjects: Plasma physics
Issue Date: 2017
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The generation of runaway electrons is a complex and important phenomenon that impacts many areas of plasma physics. Due to the decrease of electron collision frequency with increasing velocity, electrons under strong electric field can experience unlimited “runaway” acceleration. In tokamaks, runaway electrons can be produced in disruptions, due to the strong inductive electric field formed as the thermal energy of plasma gets rapidly lost. This population of runaway electrons can undergo an exponential growth, denoted the runaway electron avalanche, due to hard collisions between relativistic runaway electrons and low energy electrons. It is predicted that in a large tokamak device like the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER), a runway electron beam generated in a disruption event can potentially cause severe damage to the device, which poses a significant challenge for ITER to achieve its mission. It is therefore extremely important to seek an effective mitigation mechanism for runaway electrons. Experimental efforts have been made to study the properties of runaway electrons in tokamaks, including their generation, diffusion, and radiation. In order to understand these experimental results, extensive theoretical and simulation studies of runaway electron physics are required. The main topic of this thesis is to study the wave particle interaction associated with runaway electron beams in tokamaks. The runaway electrons can emit and absorb electromagnetic waves through resonances, and can be diffused in momentum space by the waves. Initially, we address the Cherenkov radiation of runaway electrons, which originates from the polarization of the plasma medium. The energy and momentum loss of the Cherenkov radiation can be modeled by adding a correction to the Coulomb logarithm in the collisional drag force. Subsequently, we address pitch angle scattering caused by normal modes in the plasma, which are driven unstable by the anisotropicity of the runaway electron beam. The fluctuating electromagnetic fields are found to act as a seed for the unstable normal modes. Numerical simulations show that the pitch angle scattering effect from the normal modes, mainly whistler waves, can be significantly larger than that from collisional pitch angle scattering. Finally, we present a synthetic diagnostic tool we developed to calculate the electron cyclotron emission (ECE) from the runaway electrons, and successfully reproduce the prompt growth of the ECE signal observed in DIII-D quiescent runaway electron (QRE) experiments. Within the thesis, we also present the application of the adjoint method to runaway electron research, and show the calculations of the runaway probability function (RPF) and the expected loss time (ELT). These calculations not only help depict the dynamics of runaway electrons in momentum space, but also can be used to efficiently calculate experimentally relevant quantities such as the critical electric field for runaway electron avalanche and the avalanche growth rate.
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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