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Nonlinear Kinetic Ion Response to Small Scale Magnetic Islands in Tokamak Plasmas: Neoclassical Tearing Mode Threshold Physics

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JournalPhysical Review Letters
DateAccepted/In press - 7 Sep 2018
DatePublished (current) - 24 Oct 2018
Issue number17
Number of pages5
Original languageEnglish


A new drift-kinetic theory of the ion response to magnetic islands in tokamak plasmas is presented. Small islands are considered, with widths w much smaller than the plasma radius r, but comparable to the trapped ion orbit width ρbi. An expansion in w/r reduces the system dimensions from five down to four. In the absence of an electrostatic potential, the ions follow stream lines that map out a drift-island structure that is identical to the magnetic island, but shifted by an amount ∼ few ρbi. The ion distribution function is flattened across these drift islands, not the magnetic island. For small islands, w∼ρbi, the shifted drift islands result in a pressure gradient being maintained across the magnetic island, explaining previous simulation results [E. Poli et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 075001 (2002)PRLTAO0031-900710.1103/PhysRevLett.88.075001]. To maintain quasineutrality an electrostatic potential forms, which then supports a pressure gradient in the electrons also. This influence on the electron physics is shown to stabilize small magnetic islands of width a few ion banana widths, providing a new threshold mechanism for neoclassical tearing modes - a key result for the performance of future tokamaks, including ITER.

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