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D. W. Faulconer

Fusion Science and Technology / Volume 45 / Number 2T / Pages 217-226

March 2004


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Certain devices aimed at magnetic confinement of thermonuclear plasma rely on the steady flow of an electric current in the plasma. In view of the dominant place it occupies in both the world magnetic-confinement fusion effort and the author's own activity, the tokamak toroidal configuration is selected as prototype for discussing the question of how such a current can be maintained. Tokamaks require a stationary toroidal plasma current, this being traditionally provided by a pulsed magnetic induction which drives the plasma ring as the secondary of a transformer. Since this mechanism is essentially transient, and steady-state fusion reactor operation has manifold advantages, significant effort is now devoted to developing alternate steady-state means of generating toroidal current. These methods are classed under the global heading of "noninductive current drive" or simply "current drive", generally, though not exclusively, employing the injection of waves and/or toroidally directed particle beams. In what follows we highlight the physical mechanisms underlying surprisingly various approaches to driving current in a tokamak, downplaying a number of practical and technical issues. When a significant data base exists for a given method, its experimental current drive efficiency and future prospects are detailed.

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