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Suggested Citation:"Future Prospects." National Research Council. 1995. Plasma Science: From Fundamental Research to Technological Applications. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/4936.
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Page 88

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MAGNETIC CONFINEMENT FUSION 88 ing from the fluctuations. Techniques have been developed to measure directly the energy and particle transport driven by magnetic fluctuations. As a result of the intrinsically low magnetic field in the RFP, all devices operate at high, reactor-level values of plasma beta. However, the quality of energy confinement, which is typically an order of magnitude worse than that in comparable-size tokamaks, requires improvement and is a topic of continuing research. Another line of research is experiments with the so-called compact tori, with low aspect ratios. Stable equilibria have been produced in the laboratory, despite the absence of a strong toroidal magnetic: field thought to be necessary for stability. This concept has the great advantage of a small unit size, which would significantly lower the cost of an eventual reactor based on this concept. Future Prospects Present experiments can develop much of the physics basis needed for improving stellarators, including tests of the contrasting optimization principles for the two main types of stellarators. The largest efforts involve complementary experiments in the United States, Japan, and Germany. Increased plasma heating power will permit fusion-reactor-relevant properties (higher pressure and improved confinement) in long-pulse (30-second) operation, optimization of the stellarator configuration and operational techniques for future large stellarators, and development of steady-state power and particle handling. Large superconducting-coil stellarators now under design and construction will allow true steady-state disruption-free plasmas without the need for externally driven currents or internally driven "bootstrap" currents. The higher heating powers available in these large stellarators will allow studies at higher plasma parameters (pressure, temperature, confinement time) needed for stellarator reactor development. The evolution of the RFP as a fusion concept requires improvement in energy confinement. From the present experimental database, it is anticipated that transport will be reduced with plasma current. The highest RFP plasma currents operated to date are about 0.6 MA, for durations of less than 0.1 s. Currently, experiments are starting up in Italy that will produce 2-MA plasmas for 0.25 s. This will permit observation of the scaling of confinement on critical parameters, such as the Lundquist number (a measure of the electrical conductivity), which is particularly important for the MHD phenomena prevalent in the RFP. In addition, the evolving understanding of RFP fluctuations and transport is beginning to provide a scientific basis to develop methods to enhance energy confinement. Experiments are beginning in this area. A major question in compact torus research is whether stable plasmas exist in which the ion radius of gyration about the magnetic field is small. Early experiments possibly were stabilized by the presence of ions with large gyroradii. Compact tori experiments with smaller gyroradii are just beginning.

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Plasma science is the study of ionized states of matter. This book discusses the field's potential contributions to society and recommends actions that would optimize those contributions. It includes an assessment of the field's scientific and technological status as well as a discussion of broad themes such as fundamental plasma experiments, theoretical and computational plasma research, and plasma science education.

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