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Phase-space dependent critical gradient behavior of fast-ion transport due to Alfvén eigenmodes


Experiments in the DIII-D tokamak show that many overlapping small-amplitude Alfvén eigenmodes (AEs) cause fast-ion transport to sharply increase above a critical threshold in beam power, leading to fast-ion density profile resilience and reduced fusion performance. The threshold is above the AE linear stability limit and varies between diagnostics that are sensitive to different parts of fast-ion phase-space. Comparison with theoretical analysis using the nova and orbit codes shows that, for the neutral particle diagnostic, the threshold corresponds to the onset of stochastic particle orbits due to wave-particle resonances with AEs in the measured region of phase space. The bulk fast-ion distribution and instability behavior was manipulated through variations in beam deposition geometry, and no significant differences in the onset threshold outside of measurement uncertainties were found, in agreement with the theoretical stochastic threshold analysis. Simulations using the 'kick model' produce beam ion density gradients consistent with the empirically measured radial critical gradient and highlight the importance of including the energy and pitch dependence of the fast-ion distribution function in critical gradient models. The addition of electron cyclotron heating changes the types of AEs present in the experiment, comparatively increasing the measured fast-ion density and radial gradient. These studies provide the basis for understanding how to avoid AE transport that can undesirably redistribute current and cause fast-ion losses, and the measurements are being used to validate AE-induced transport models that use the critical gradient paradigm, giving greater confidence when applied to ITER.

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