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May 10 – 15, 2021
Virtual Event
Europe/Vienna timezone
The Conference will be held virtually from 10-15 May 2021

Facets of alpha particle physics anticipated in D-3He plasmas in preparation for deuterium-tritium at the Joint European Torus

May 12, 2021, 8:30 AM
Virtual Event

Virtual Event

Regular Poster Magnetic Fusion Experiments P3 Posters 3


Dr Massimo Nocente (Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Milano-Bicocca)


Alpha particles are the key players of a burning plasma as they provide the self-heating required for the sustainment of the fusion burn. At the same time, however, there is only little experimental knowledge on their properties, mostly because of the limited availability of deuterium-tritium (DT) plasmas. Among the challenges that the scientific program of the Joint European Torus (JET) is preparing to face is thus the unambiguous observation of alpha particle physics effects. This encompasses the excitation of alpha-driven Toroidal Alfvén Eigenmodes (TAE) [Ref. 1], as well as the documentation of the general impact of the alpha particles on a number of plasma properties such as, for instance, their expected positive impact on transport through the stabilization of turbulence.
This ambitious scientific goal requires the development of a dedicated scenario at JET, where the production of alpha particles is maximised at limited input power. Of special benefit would here be the capability to produce a steady state supra-thermal deuterium and/or tritium distribution function, as this can in principle maximize the DT reactivity, which is not achieved in a solely thermal plasma. Among the tools that can realize this scenario in DT is an application of the novel ‘3 ion’ scheme [Ref. 2], which is based on ion-cyclotron resonance heating (ICRH) in a mixed species plasma and has recently been applied at JET in D-$^3$He. In this contribution we present the findings of this experiment, which led to the generation of a significant amount of alpha particle through the $^3$He(d, p)$\alpha$ reaction. We also demonstrate that these plasmas anticipate many of the peculiarities that are commonly associated to alpha particles, without the technical complications of a DT environment, and are thus worth studying per se.
In the set of D-$^3$He JET experiments we have conducted, deuterium ions from the neutral beam injection (NBI) system were accelerated by ICRH. The concentration of $^3$He ions ~20-25% was chosen to locate the ion-ion hybrid (IIH) layer in the plasma core, where the wave polarization is particularly favourable for ICRH absorption by D-NBI ions through their Doppler shifted fundamental resonance. This leads to the acceleration of D ions up to the MeV range, which is unambiguously demonstrated by a large variety of diagnostics data. Among these are a factor ≈ 10 enhancement of the DD neutron rate, the observation of high energy tails in the neutron spectrometers and neutral particle analyzers, the production of gamma-rays from nuclear reactions driven by the energetic deuterons, and many others. A peculiarity of the scenario is the capability to change the plasma reactivity by modifying the NBI/ICRH heating mix at fixed input powers up to about 15 MW. In all these plasmas, $^3$He acts as an element for ICRH acceleration of D ions and as the target of the $^3$He(d, p)$\alpha$ fusion reaction, and we can produce alphas at the level of 10$^{16}$ particle/s and with a mean energy around 4 MeV, with a spectral width that depends on the average energy of the fast deuterium. Of particular relevance is here the unique capability that JET has to determine the image of the fusion born alpha particle source, which is made possible by a tomographic inversion of the 16.4 MeV gamma-ray emission from d+$^3$He fusion reactions using data from the recently enhanced gamma-ray cameras [Ref. 3] (figure 1).
As MeV range ions are produced, the plasma responds in a peculiar way. Despite a dominant electron heating predominantly constrained in the very core region where the IIH layer occurs, we observe T$_i$≈T$_e$ throughout the plasma and we achieve core temperatures of about 8 keV at moderately high electron densities of ≈ 6‧10$^{19}$ m$^{-3}$. This suggests an important contribution of MeV range fast ions in the mitigation of turbulence in a scenario with dominant electron heating that, in many respects, mocks up some of the heating conditions expected by alpha particles in DT [Ref. 4].
Another common observation is the presence of a large variety of fast ion driven MHD and, in particular, of Reversed Shear Alfvén Eigenmodes (RSAE), that persist also in the main heating phase, suggesting that a non-monotonic q-profile is unexpectedly achieved.
Furthermore, we have developed a “slowing down” scenario, whereby the NBI source is switched off while ICRH persists (figure 2), as a way to study the decay of the energetic deuteron and fusion born alpha populations. In the “after glow” phase of this discharge there is a spatial change of the alpha particle source (figure 1), which is accompanied by long lived elliptic Alfvén eigenmodes (EAE). Numerical simulations of the drive and damping of these modes are being carried out to establish the contribution of the fusion born alphas to the drive of the observed EAEs, with application to the possibility of developing a new scenario for the destabilization of $\alpha$-driven AEs studies in DT in NBI/ICRH plasmas at moderate input power levels.
We finally discuss the implications of these results for JET DT and ITER, in particular with respect to the facets of alpha particle physics that these plasmas anticipate, what can be learnt from them and their readiness level in view of DT.

Acknowledgements This work has been carried out within the framework of the EUROfusion Consortium and has received funding from the Euratom research and training programme 2014-2018 and 2019-2020 under grant agreement No 633053. The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of the European Commission.

[Ref. 1] R. Dumont et al. “Scenario preparation for the observation of alpha-driven instabilities and transport of alpha particles in JET DT plasmas”, this conference
[Ref. 2] Y. Kazakov et al., Nature Physics 13, 973–978 (2017)
[Ref. 3] D. Rigamonti et al. Rev. Sci. Instrum. 89, 10I116 (2018)
[Ref. 4] J. Garcia et al. Phys. Plasmas 25, 055902 (2018)

Image of the alpha particle source before (7.5-10 s) and during (10-12s) the after-glow phase
Time traces of the NBI/ICRH auxiliary power, neutron rate and core electron temperature Te0 for JET discharge #95689 (afterglow scenario)

Affiliation University of Milano-Bicocca
Country or International Organization Italy

Primary author

Dr Massimo Nocente (Dipartimento di Fisica, Università di Milano-Bicocca)


Yevgen Kazakov (Laboratory for Plasma Physics, LPP-ERM/KMS) Jeronimo Garcia (CEA IRFM) Vasily Kiptily (United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority) Jozef ONGENA (Plasma Physics Lab, ERM-KMS, Brussels) Dr Yuriy Baranov (UKAEA) Andreas Bierwage (National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology) Mr Teddy Craciunescu (Institute of Atomic Physics, Magurele-Bucharest, Romania) Mr Andrea Dal Molin ( Dipartimento di Fisica “G. Occhialini”, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy) Mykola Dreval (National Science Center Kharkov Institute of Physics and Technology) Dr Remi Dumont (CEA, France ) Dr Jacob Eriksson (Uppsala University) Mr Luca Giacomelli (Institute for Plasma Physics and Technology, National Research Council, Milan, Italy) Dr Carine Giroud (UKAEA) Dr Giuseppe Gorini ( Dipartimento di Fisica “G. Occhialini”, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy) Mr Eugeny Khilkevitch (Ioffe Institute) Dr Krassimir Kirov (UKAEA) Ms Margarita Iliasova (Ioffe Insitute) Philipp Lauber (IPP Garching) Mervi Mantsinen (ICREA and Barcelona Supercomputing Center) Fernando Nabais (Instituto de Plasmas e Fusao Nuclear, IST) Maria Filomena Nave (Instituto de Plasmas e Fusão Nuclear, Instituto Superior Técnico) Mr Enrico Panontin (2Dipartimento di Fisica “G. Occhialini”, Università di Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy) Mr Davide Rigamonti (Institute for Plasma Physics and Technology, National Research Council, Milan, Italy) Arne Sahlberg (Uppsala University) Mirko Salewski (Technical University of Denmark) Alexander Shevelev (Ioffe Institute) Kouji Shinohara (National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology) Dr Paula Sirén (Aalto University and VTT) Žiga Štancar (Jožef Stefan Institute) Dr Shuhei Sumida (National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology, Naka, Ibaraki, Japan) Mr Marco Tardocchi (Institute for Plasma Physics and Technology, National Research Council, Milan, Italy) Dr Jari Varje (VTT) Henri Weisen (JET EFDA) Mr Andrej Zohar (Jozef Stefan Institute)

Presentation materials