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Advances in Quasilinear Gyrokinetic Modeling of Turbulent Transport


The quest to harness fusion energy requires the successful modeling of plasma turbulence and transport in magnetic confinement devices. For such modeling, the requisite length and time scales span many orders of magnitude. Integrated modeling approaches are constructed to account for the wide range of physics involved in turbulent transport by coupling separate physical models together. The primary physical models used in this work are kinetic and designed to simulate microturbulence on the smallest scales associated with turbulent transport. However, high precision nonlinear kinetic simulations often cannot be easily coupled to integrated modeling suites due to the extreme computational costs that would be involved. Model reduction which drastically reduces the computational complexity of the problem is therefore necessary. One must of course ensure that the reduced model does not severely diminish the accuracy of the calculation; the model reduction itself must be founded on more exact computational approaches as well as fundamental theoretical principles.

One of the most successful approaches in model reduction is quasilinear gyrokinetics. There are two fundamental assumptions for the quasilinear model examined in this work. First, the three adiabatic invariants (the magnetic moment, the longitudinal invariant, and the poloidal flux) must be appropriately conserved and their associated single charged particle motions (the gyromotion, the bounce-transit motion, and the toroidal drift motion) must be characterized accurately. Second, the quasilinear approximation must hold such that the coherent linear response is adequate enough to compute the quasilinear fluxes without full calculation of the nonlinear physics. The particular model used, QuaLiKiz, has been proven successful in reproducing local gyrokinetic fluxes in the tokamak core while remaining computationally tractable.

There are three primary goals of this dissertation project. The first is to examine the fundamental physics underlying gyrokinetic and reduced model approaches at the single charged particle scale. To achieve this goal, we examine the assumption of magnetic moment invariance in a wide variety of electromagnetic fields. We successfully identify the dimensionless parameters that determine magnetic moment conservation in each scenario and then proceed to quantify the degree to which magnetic moment conservation is broken. In doing so, we confirm that the magnetic moment is sufficiently conserved for a wide range of regimes relevant to tokamak plasmas. In addition, we derive new analytic formulas for quantities associated with bounce-transit motion in circular tokamak fields. We compare these new, more exact calculations to approximations commonly used in reduced models (including QuaLiKiz) and determine the conditions such that the approximations break down. We then also confirm that the approximations are valid in the tokamak core for conventional, large aspect ratio devices.

The second goal of this dissertation project is to rederive and compile the model equations for QuaLiKiz from first principles. Over the years of QuaLiKiz's development, there has never been a complete manuscript that sketches the derivation of QuaLiKiz from start to finish. The lack of such a document makes it difficult to extend the physics of QuaLiKiz to new parameter regimes of interest. Various possible extensions such as including electromagnetic effects or more realistic tokamak geometries require the adjustment of several different assumptions that would affect the derivation in key ways. As such, correct implementations of new physics would require an existing derivation as a reference point lest the implementation be handled in an incoherent fashion. In addition, a step-by-step outline of how each assumption of QuaLiKiz affects the derivation can be helpful in determining which assumptions can be relaxed for a more accurate model. The successful completion of this derivation, included in this dissertation, will be immensely useful for future QuaLiKiz improvement and validation.

With the derivation in hand, we proceed to the third goal of this project: improving the collisional model of QuaLiKiz. Collisions play an essential role in characterizing the transport associated with trapped electron modes. It has become evident in recent studies that the collisional model in QuaLiKiz requires improvement; in integrated modeling, the imprecise treatment of collisional trapped electron modes leads to incorrect density profile predictions near the tokamak core for highly collisional regimes. We revisit the collision model implemented in QuaLiKiz and use the more exact gyrokinetic code GENE (Gyrokinetic Electromagnetic Numerical Experiment) to make improvements to QuaLiKiz's collision operator. We then use the new version of QuaLiKiz in integrated modeling to compare density profiles predicted by the old and new collision operators. We confirm that the new collision operator leads to density profiles that more accurately match the experimental profiles.

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