SOLPS-ITER predictive simulations of the impact of ion-molecule elastic collisions on strongly detached MAST-U Super-X divertor conditions

O. Myatra*, D. Moulton, B. Dudson, B. Lipschultz, S. Newton, K. Verhaegh, A. Fil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of ion-molecule ( D+ − D2 ) elastic collisions in strongly detached divertor conditions has been studied in the MAST-U Super-X configuration using SOLPS-ITER. Two strongly detached steady state solutions were compared, one obtained through a main-ion fuelling scan and the other through a nitrogen seeding scan at fixed fuelling rate. A significant difference in the electron-ion recombination (EIR) levels was observed; significant EIR in strongly detached conditions in the fuelling scan and negligible EIR throughout the seeding scan. This is partly because the fuelling scan achieves electron temperatures ( Te ) as low as 0.2 eV near the divertor target, compared to 0.8 eV in the seeding scan (EIR increases strongly below Te ≈ 1 eV), and partly due to higher divertor plasma densities achieved in fuelling scan. Features of the strongly detached seeded cases, i.e. higher temperatures and negligible EIR, are recovered in the fuelling scan by turning off D+ − D2 elastic collisions. Analysis suggests that dissipation mechanisms like line radiation and charge exchange (important for detachment initiation) become weak when Te falls below 1 eV, and that D+ − D2 elastic collisions are necessary for further heat dissipation and access to strongly recombining conditions in the fuelling scan. In the seeding scan, heat dissipation through D+ − D2 elastic collisions is weak. This could be because our nitrogen seeding simulations do not include interactions between nitrogen ions and neutrals, and the strongly detached cases contain high levels of N+ in the divertor. As a result, the N+ acts like a reservoir of energy and momentum which appears to weaken the impact of D+ − D2 elastic collisions on the divertor plasma energy and momentum balance, making it more difficult to access recombining conditions. This suggests that some of the differences between seeding and fuelling scans could be because energy and momentum exchange between impurities and neutrals is not sufficiently captured in our simulations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number076030
Number of pages21
JournalNuclear Fusion
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work has been part-funded by the EPSRC Energy Programme (Grant Number EP/W006839/1]). To obtain further information on the data and models underlying this paper please contact This work has also received funding from the University of York and the research by B. Lipschultz was funded in part by the Wolfson Foundation and UK Royal Society through a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit Award as well as by the RCUK Energy Programme (EPSRC Grant Number EP/I501045).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Crown copyright, UKAEA.


  • detachment
  • elastic collisions
  • MAST-U
  • molecules
  • Super-X
  • tokamak divertor

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