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Published February 2006 | Published
Journal Article Open

Spheromak formation and sustainment studies at the sustained spheromak physics experiment using high-speed imaging and magnetic diagnostics


A high-speed imaging system with shutter speeds as fast as 2 ns and double frame capability has been used to directly image the formation and evolution of the sustained spheromak physics experiment (SSPX) [E. B. Hooper et al., Nucl. Fusion 39, 863 (1999)]. Reproducible plasma features have been identified with this diagnostic and divided into three groups, according to the stage in the discharge at which they occur: (i) breakdown and ejection, (ii) sustainment, and (iii) decay. During the first stage, plasma descends into the flux conserver shortly after breakdown and a transient plasma column is formed. The column then rapidly bends and simultaneously becomes too dim to photograph a few microseconds after formation. It is conjectured here that this rapid bending precedes the transfer of toroidal to poloidal flux. During sustainment, a stable plasma column different from the transient one is observed. It has been possible to measure the column diameter and compare it to CORSICA [A. Tarditi et al., Contrib. Plasma Phys. 36, 132 (1996)], a magnetohydrodynamic equilibrium reconstruction code which showed good agreement with the measurements. Elongation and velocity measurements were made of cathode patterns also seen during this stage, possibly caused by pressure gradients or E×B drifts. The patterns elongate in a toroidal-only direction which depends on the magnetic-field polarity. During the decay stage the column diameter expands as the current ramps down, until it eventually dissolves into filaments. With the use of magnetic probes inserted in the gun region, an X point which moved axially depending on current level and toroidal mode number was observed in all the stages of the SSPX plasma discharge.

Additional Information

© 2006 American Institute of Physics (Received 7 September 2005; accepted 3 November 2005; published online 8 February 2006) This work was supported by U.S. Department of Energy.

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