National Academies Press: OpenBook

Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications (1995)

Chapter:Nonlinear Interaction of Intense Electromagnetic Waves with Plasmas

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Suggested Citation:"Nonlinear Interaction of Intense Electromagnetic Waves with Plasmas." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.

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THEORETICAL AND COMPUTATIONAL PLASMA PHYSICS 166 modified by the presence of toroidal field ripple, and if sufficiently large, ripple can cause the orbits of trapped particles to become stochastic and to be lost from the plasma in a time that is short compared to the slowing-down time. Concept Improvement As the tokamak confinement approach continues to make significant technical progress toward achieving the conditions required for fusion power production, it is increasingly important to improve the tokamak concept, particularly in the long-pulse and steady-state regimes that can lead to compact designs for economical power production. This will require a significant theoretical and experimental effort in the study of advanced-tokamak regimes that optimize the bootstrap-current fraction produced by the collisional equilibration between trapped and passing particles, improve the efficiency of noninductive current drive, optimize the current profile and plasma shapes, and explore regimes of enhanced confinement and increased plasma beta. To ensure fully equilibrium (i.e., "steady-state") conditions, these plasma regimes must be studied for pulse lengths longer than the characteristic time scales of plasma processes and plasma-wall interactions. This will require steady-state power handling, particle exhaust, and impurity control by divertors at high power fluxes, as well as the development of advanced plasma fueling, current-drive, and control techniques. These are key features of the Tokamak Physics Experiment (TPX) planned for operation around the turn of the century. Nonlinear Interaction of Intense Electromagnetic Waves with Plasmas During the next decade, more quantitative models must be developed that describe the nonlinear interaction and competition of plasma instabilities driven by intense electromagnetic waves. This is a timely challenge for many reasons. In laser-plasma experiments, these instabilities are being characterized in greater detail, using increasingly sophisticated diagnostics. Nonlinear models based on the Zakharov equations are already illustrating the rich competition between different instabilities, and successful comparisons with experiments are being made. Finally, advances in computational physics and computers are allowing improved simulations, including, for example, meaningful three- dimensional simulations of laser-beam filamentation by both ponderomotive and thermal mechanisms. More quantitative models of the nonlinear behavior of laser-plasma instabilities would allow optimized regimes of operation for inertial fusion and improved interpretation of data from ionospheric and space plasmas. Because these instabilities involve the most basic plasma waves, improved understanding of the nonlinear behavior would be a very significant contribution to plasma science, no doubt stimulating new advances and applications.

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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