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Design and Operation of a Passively Switched Repetitive Compact Toroid Plasma Accelerator

Harry S. McLean, David Q. Hwang, Robert D. Horton, Russell W. Evans, Stephen D. Terry, John C. Thomas, Roger Raman

Fusion Science and Technology

Volume 33 / Number 3 / May 1998 / Pages 252-272


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The design and operation of a spheromak-like compact toroid (SCT) plasma accelerator is described. As an example application, some principles are presented for using the device as a plasma injector to fuel a tokamak plasma. The device forms and accelerates an SCT plasma. The SCT is a self-contained structure of plasma with embedded poloidal and toroidal magnetic fields and their associated currents that provide plasma confinement and structural integrity. The SCT is formed in a magnetized coaxial plasma gun and then accelerated within coaxial electrodes. The typical mass of an SCT for tokamak fueling is from several tens to several hundreds of micrograms and is accelerated up to a velocity of ~2 × 105 m/s. Larger-mass SCTs can be produced, and higher velocities are possible. This is important for other applications such as space propulsion, X-ray generation, fast-opening plasma switches, and low-temperature high-density plasma simulators.

The novel features of the device are as follows: (a) it can be operated in a repetitive mode, (b) the high-energy capacitor bank to form the SCT is switched by initiating breakdown with fast gas injection, (c) the required delay between formation and acceleration is achieved passively with saturable inductors that switch the high-energy accelerator capacitor bank, and (d) a drift section has been added within the toroidal field region to study cross-field propagation prior to tokamak penetration.

With the device installed on the Davis Diverted Tokamak (DDT), measurements are taken to study tokamak fueling. Typical rep-rated parameters are as follows: the SCT poloidal magnetic field at the outer electrode = 0.4 T, the stored formation bank energy = 1600 J, and the stored accelerator bank energy = 3600 J. The lower bound on SCT kinetic energy leaving the accelerator = 40 J (inferred from electron line density measurements). Typical SCT velocity is 15 to 20 cm/s. The maximum rep-rate achieved so far with the device is 0.2 Hz and is currently limited by vacuum pumping capacity. Reliable operation has been demonstrated for 1000 consecutive shots. Higher-energy single shots have also been taken to study SCT propagation through an open guide tube and to study penetration of the SCT into the DDT tokamak vessel with both tokamak plasma discharges and vacuum toroidal magnetic field only.

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