Structure of micro-instabilities in tokamak plasmas: Stiff transport or plasma eruptions?

D. Dickinson, C. M. Roach, J. M. Skipp, H. R. Wilson

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Solutions to a model 2D eigenmode equation describing micro-instabilities in tokamak plasmas are presented that demonstrate a sensitivity of the mode structure and stability to plasma profiles. In narrow regions of parameter space, with special plasma profiles, a maximally unstable mode is found that balloons on the outboard side of the tokamak. This corresponds to the conventional picture of a ballooning mode. However, for most profiles, this mode cannot exist, and instead, a more stable mode is found that balloons closer to the top or bottom of the plasma. Good quantitative agreement with a 1D ballooning analysis is found, provided the constraints associated with higher order profile effects, often neglected, are taken into account. A sudden transition from this general mode to the more unstable ballooning mode can occur for a critical flow shear, providing a candidate model for why some experiments observe small plasma eruptions (Edge Localised Modes, or ELMs) in place of large Type I ELMs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number010702
JournalPhysics of Plasmas
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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