AIP Digital Archive
Stability at high beta (the ratio of plasma pressure to magnetic field pressure) is an important requirement for a compact, economically attractive fusion reactor. It is also important in present large tokamak experiments, where the best performance is now often limited by instabilities rather than by energy transport. The past decade has seen major advances in our understanding of the stability of high beta tokamak plasmas, as well as in the achievement of high values of beta. Ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) theory has been remarkably successful in predicting the stability limits, and the scaling of maximum stable beta with the normalized plasma current predicted by Troyon and others has been confirmed in many experiments, yielding a limit βmax≈3.5 (%-m-T/MA) I/aB (where I is the plasma current, a is the minor radius, and B is the toroidal field). The instabilities which are predicted to limit beta have been observed experimentally, in good agreement with theoretical predictions, including long-wavelength kink modes and short-wavelength ballooning instabilities. Advances in understanding of tokamak stability have opened several paths to higher values of beta. The use of strong discharge shaping, approaching the limits of axisymmetric stability, has allowed beta values as high as 12% to be reached in agreement with Troyon scaling. Recent experimental results and ideal MHD modeling have shown that the beta limit depends on the form of the pressure and current density profiles, and modification of the current density to create a centrally peaked profile has allowed beta values up to 6I/aB to be achieved experimentally.Recent experiments have also begun to explore both local and global access to the predicted second stable regime for ballooning modes, with the potential for very high values of β/(I/aB). Preliminary experimental investigations of wall stabilization and radio-frequency (RF) current profile control hold the promise of further improvements in beta through passive and active control of instabilities. The developing understanding of high beta stability and the application of this understanding to present experiments and future fusion devices hold the potential for production of stable, steady state plasmas at high beta with good confinement.
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