National Academies Press: OpenBook

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

Chapter:Future Research and Technical Opportunities

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Suggested Citation:"Future Research and Technical Opportunities." 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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MAGNETIC CONFINEMENT FUSION 79 scrapeoff layer is just outside. The properties of the edge and scrapeoff plasma regions have been shown to exert a profound influence on the confinement and transport properties of the main plasma. This arises through modifications to the boundary conditions on charged and neutral particle and energy flows. Recent Advances Research on divertor physics was invigorated in the early 1980s by the discovery of an enhanced core plasma confinement mode (H-mode) for auxiliary-heated plasmas. A doubling of energy confinement was soon verified in many subsequent divertor experiments and, more recently, in limiter- bounded plasmas, as well as in stellarators (an alternate form of toroidal confinement device). New regimes of enhanced confinement were also discovered in ohmically heated tokamaks and in auxiliary-heated tokamaks with special vessel wall treatments. The common link between all these improved regimes of energy confinement was control over hydrogen recycling in the edge plasma. To understand the transport of energy in the edge region, two-dimensional fluid modeling of the scrapeoff layer has yielded important predictions. A regime of high recycling divertor (HRD) was predicted in which the flux of particles onto the divertor plate greatly exceeded the flow of particles out across the separatrix. This greatly reduces the average energy of the ions hitting the divertor plate and, hence, the impurities generated there by sputtering. A flux enhancement factor of ~20 has been measured in several tokamaks, which confirms the model. In addition, the flux enhancement in the divertor acts as a flow against which impurities created at the divertor surfaces must fight to reach the plasma core region. Though not directly within the category of plasma edge physics, activities on wall conditioning deserve special recognition. New methods to coat and condition the walls of tokamaks (e.g., carbon, boron, silicon, and lithium coatings and helium discharge conditioning) have resulted in the greatest improvements in core plasma phenomena. At present, this activity is more of an art than a science and is not well understood. Future Research and Technical Opportunities The requirements of the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) program have given new momentum to edge and divertor physics research. The ITER activity, supported by the European Community, Japan, Russia, and the United States, is now in the engineering design phase. ITER will be the first large-scale device built for the purpose of demonstrating controlled thermonuclear ignition and burn as well as the engineering feasibility of a tokamak-based reactor. However, analysis by the ITER team has shown the inability

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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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