Fusion power plants hold the promise of providing clean and sustainable energy for the future. However, to be commercially viable, these plants must create and sustain the plasma conditions necessary for fusion reactions to occur. One of the challenges faced in achieving this goal is the development of instabilities such as edge localized modes (ELMs) in high-temperature and high-density plasmas.

Researchers have found that the cross-sectional shape of the plasma, known as plasma triangularity, can have a significant impact on the development of instabilities like ELMs. Most plasmas studied so far have positive triangularity, with a D-shaped cross-section that positions the vertical portion of the “D” near the center post of the tokamak. However, recent research has explored the concept of negative triangularity, where the vertical part is near the outer wall of the tokamak.

A study published in the journal Physical Review Letters showed that plasmas with negative triangularity exhibit self-regulation of gradients and are inherently free of instabilities across various plasma conditions. The research, based on extensive analysis of data from the DIII-D National Fusion Facility program, demonstrated that negative triangularity shaping can stabilize instabilities in the plasma edge without compromising fusion performance.

Experiments conducted with the DIII-D National Fusion Facility tokamak confirmed that negative triangularity shaping can limit the development of ELMs, even under high heating power and core performance conditions that typically lead to instabilities. Plasmas with strong negative triangularity showed no instabilities, indicating that this shaping approach could provide a solution to the challenge of plasma instabilities in fusion power plant design.

The study highlighted that negative triangularity shaping offers a more robust solution to ELM suppression compared to other methods such as resonant magnetic perturbations. The inherent stability of negative triangularity shaping was consistently observed across a range of conditions, suggesting its potential to address the major challenges in fusion power plant design.

The promising results of the study indicate that negative triangularity shaping is a viable approach for fusion power plant design. Further research and development in this area could lead to the implementation of this shaping technique in future fusion reactors. The collaboration among various institutions in the United States on negative triangularity shaping underscores the importance of exploring innovative solutions for advancing fusion energy technology.

The research on negative triangularity shaping in fusion power plant design has revealed its potential to stabilize instabilities in the plasma edge while maintaining high core performance. This approach could pave the way for the development of more efficient and reliable fusion power plants in the future.

Physics

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