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Low-q resonances, transport barriers, and secondary electrostatic convective cells

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Recent experimental observations have suggested key characteristics of internal transport barrier (ITB) formation near low- q surfaces in off-axis minimum- q (OAMq) discharges. These observations identify mean profile flattening localized to the low- q surface as a transition precursor in the absence of observable magnetic field perturbations. This observation suggests an electrostatic model of ITB formation which accounts for strong transport in the immediate vicinity of the low- q surface, as well as the formation of an ITB nearby the surface. Here, a low- m electrostatic convective cell driven by modulational instability of the background drift wave turbulence is discussed in the context of ITB formation near low- q resonances in OAM q discharges. Unlike pure m=n=0 zonal flows, convective cells are capable of intense mixing localized around low- q resonant surfaces, thus relaxing ∇T and ∇n profiles at the kB=0 resonance. However, nearby, but off the low- q resonant surface the magnitude of convective cell shear is maximal, providing an effective means of triggering a transport barrier there. Field line bending coupled with collisional viscosity are found to strongly damp the intensity of the vortical flows except in the case of weak magnetic shear. Furthermore, collisionless nonlinear saturation mechanisms such as nonlinear wave trapping are largely circumvented due to the strong mixing of the convective cell. This suggests that low- m convective cells may play a key role in the regulation of turbulent transport near low- q resonances for OAMq discharges. © 2007 American Institute of Physics.

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