(19)
(11)EP 3 183 944 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
03.10.2018 Bulletin 2018/40

(21)Application number: 15833596.8

(22)Date of filing:  18.08.2015
(51)Int. Cl.: 
H05H 1/00  (2006.01)
G21B 1/21  (2006.01)
G21B 1/05  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/CA2015/050784
(87)International publication number:
WO 2016/026040 (25.02.2016 Gazette  2016/08)

(54)

SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR CONTROLLING PLASMA MAGNETIC FIELD

SYSTEM UND VERFAHREN ZUR STEUERUNG EINES PLASMAMAGNETFELDS

SYSTÈME ET PROCÉDÉ DE COMMANDE D'UN CHAMP MAGNÉTIQUE DE PLASMA


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 19.08.2014 US 201462039191 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
28.06.2017 Bulletin 2017/26

(73)Proprietor: General Fusion, Inc.
Burnaby, British Columbia V3N 4T5 (CA)

(72)Inventors:
  • ZINDLER, Ryan Walter
    Surrey, British Columbia V3W 8L4 (CA)
  • FRASER, Jonathan Damian
    Vancouver, British Columbia V5R 2J6 (CA)

(74)Representative: Barker Brettell LLP 
100 Hagley Road Edgbaston
Birmingham B16 8QQ
Birmingham B16 8QQ (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A1-99/00823
US-A1- 2003 024 476
US-A1- 2007 145 018
US-A- 4 767 590
US-A1- 2004 079 287
US-A1- 2010 206 847
  
  • Asai et al.: "New control methods for stabilization and equilibrium of a field-reversedconfiguration", Innovative Confinement Concepts (ICC) andUS-Japan Compact Torus Plasma (CT) Workshop - August 16-19, 2011 - Seattle, Washington , 2011, pages 40-43, XP002775961, Retrieved from the Internet: URL:http://www.iccworkshops.org/icc2011/IC C2011Proceedings.pdf [retrieved on 2017-11-21]
  • Asai et al.: "MHD Activity in an ExtremelyHigh-Beta Compact Toroid", Topics in Magnetohydrodynamics, 9 March 2012 (2012-03-09), pages 117-134, XP002775962, ISBN: 978-953-51-0211-3 Retrieved from the Internet: URL:http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs/31465.p df [retrieved on 2017-11-23]
  • Nogi et al.: "Stabilization of Rotational Instability in FRCby an Axial Current", US-Japan Workshop on Field-Reversed Configurations with Steady-State High-Temperature Fusion Plasmas and the 11th US-Japan Workshop on Compact Toroids , 1989, pages 78-81, XP002775960, Retrieved from the Internet: URL:http://www.iaea.org/inis/collection/NC LCollectionStore/_Public/21/065/21065675.p df [retrieved on 2017-11-21]
  • SLOUGH , J: 'Multi-Megawatt Propulsion Based On A Compact Toroid Thruster' 29TH INTERNATIONAL ELECTRIC PROPULSION CONFERENCE, [Online] 04 November 2005, pages 1 - 15, XP055407440 Retrieved from the Internet: <URL:HTTP://ETPS.SPACEERANT.ORG/UPLOADS/IMA GES/IMAGES/IEPC_ARTICLEDOWNLOAD_1988-2007/2 005INDEX/296.PDF>
  • RICHARDSON ET AL.: 'Status of Progress Towards Acoustic Magnetized Target Fusion at General Fusion' 34TH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE CANADIAN NUCLEAR SOCIETY,37TH ANNUAL CNS/CNA STUDENT CONFERENCE, [Online] 09 June 2013, pages 1 - 15, XP055407442 Retrieved from the Internet: <URL:HTTP://WWW.GENERALFUSION.COM/BLOE/WP-C ONTENT/UPLOADS/2014/07/GENERAL-FUSION-CNS-2 013.PDF>
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

Technical Field



[0001] The present disclosure relates generally to a system and method for controlling a magnetic lifetime of a magnetized plasma by controlling the a decay time of a plasma magnetic field and particularly to a system and method for controlling plasma stability by controlling plasma magnetic field.

Background



[0002] Plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which at least part of the particles are ionized. The presence of charged particles (e.g. positive ions and negative electrons) makes plasma electrically conductive. Plasma with a magnetic field strong enough to influence the motion of the charged particles is called magnetized plasma. A plasma torus is a self-sustained magnetized plasma shaped into a toroidal configuration (donut shape), with linked poloidal and toroidal (in some cases) closed magnetic field lines. Toroidal magnetic field comprises magnetic field lines that go parallel to a magnetic axis of the plasma torus. The toroidal field is generated by a current flowing in poloidal direction around the plasma's magnetic axis. Poloidal magnetic field comprises magnetic field lines that go around the magnetic axis of the plasma torus and is generated by a current flowing in toroidal direction, parallel to the magnetic axis. As a magnetic field line runs many turns around the plasma in the toroidal and poloidal direction, it defines a "flux surface" at a constant radius from the plasma's magnetic axis. The extent of linkage of the poloidal and toroidal magnetic fluxes defines a helicity of the plasma torus. Plasma torus contained in a simply connected volume is called a compact toroid (CT). The CT configuration can include, for example: a spheromak configuration that exists close to a stable magnetohydrodynamic equilibrium with an internal magnetic field having both toroidal and poloidal components; or a Field Reversed Configuration (FRC), which also has a toroidal magnetic topology, but can be more elongated in the axial direction with an outer surface being similar to a prolate ellipsoid, and which has primarily a poloidal magnetic field, with no toroidal magnetic field component. CT plasmas can be formed in a range of magnetic configurations, including ones that exist in states that are in between spheromak and FRC states. Other configurations of magnetized plasma include tokamaks, reversed field pinches (RFP) and stellarators, all of which use external coils to provide toroidal magnetic field at the wall of a plasma confinement chamber (flux conserving chamber). In contrast, spheromaks and FRCs do not have external coils to provide plasma's toroidal field and the magnetic fields are generated by the currents flowing in the plasma.

[0003] Controlled thermonuclear fusion is based on the fusion of light nuclei present in the plasma to form a heavier nucleus. Plasma needs to confine nuclei for a sufficiently long time to allow enough of such nuclei to fuse. Therefore, stabilization and maintaining the plasma in a stable configuration is very important for any fusion system and fusion scheme. In case of magnetized plasma configurations, plasma magnetic field (poloidal and/or toroidal field component) is a key plasma property related to plasma stability and plasma performance.

[0004] US4,767,590 discloses an apparatus and method for maintaining a steady-state current in a toroidally magnetically confined plasma.

Summary



[0005] In one aspect, a system for controlling the magnetic lifetime of a magnetized plasma by controlling the decay time of a plasma magnetic field is provided. The system comprises a controller comprising an input unit, a processing unit and an output unit. A plurality of measuring probes positioned at various radial, axial and angular positions in a wall of a flux conserving chamber are configured to provide signals of at least one parameter of the plasma to the input unit of the controller. A power source is provided in communication with the output unit of the controller. The power source is configured to provide one or more additional, axial, current pulses to the system to increase a toroidal field of the plasma. The power source has a means for adjusting an inductance-to-resistance (L/R) time constant to adjust a current decay time of the current pulses. The controller has a memory that comprises a program code executable by the processing unit to process the signals obtained from the plurality of measuring probes to identify an irregularity in the signals obtained from the probes and triggers the power source to provide the axial current pulse when an irregularity is detected in a signal from at least one of the probe. The L/R time constant of the power system is adjusted to be shorter than a shortest decay time of a poloidal field of the plasma.

[0006] In another aspect the controller further comprises program code executable by the processing unit to calculate a ratio of the toroidal to poloidal magnetic field of the plasma and compare the calculated ratio to an empirically derived lower threshold value. The controller triggers the power source to provide the additional, axial, current pulse when the calculated ratio is below the lower threshold value. The controller further comprises program code executable by the processing unit to maintain the magnetic field ratio between the lower threshold value and an upper threshold value.

[0007] In one aspect, the controller further comprises program code executable by the processing unit to detect oscillations in the signals obtained from the plurality of probes. The additional, axial, current pulse is triggered when the oscillations are detected in the signal obtained from at least one of the probes.

[0008] The controller further comprises program code executable by the processing unit to calculate an instability mode of the plasma based on a phase of the oscillations in the signals obtained from the probes positioned at different angular positions. The program code is further executable to adjust a timing of the triggering of the axial current pulse based on the calculated instability mode.

[0009] In another aspect, a method of controlling a magnetic life time of a magnetized plasma by controlling a decay time of a plasma magnetic field is provided. The method comprises adjusting an inductance to resistance (L/R) time constant to be shorter than a shortest decay time of a poloidal field of the magnetized plasma; measuring one or more parameters of the plasma by a plurality of probes positioned at various radial, axial and angular positions in a wall of a flux conserving chamber to detect the parameters at various angular and radial positions from a magnetic axis of the plasma; processing signals obtained from the plurality of probes; detecting an irregularity in the obtained signals and triggering the power source to provide an additional, axial, current pulse based on a detected irregularity in a signal of at least one probe.

[0010] In addition to the aspects and embodiments described above, further aspects and embodiments will become apparent by reference to the drawings and study of the following detailed description.

Brief Description of the Drawings



[0011] Throughout the drawings, reference numbers may be re-used to indicate correspondence between referenced elements. The drawings are provided to illustrate example embodiments described herein and are not intended to limit the scope of the disclosure. Sizes and relative positions of elements in the drawings are not necessarily drawn to scale. For example, the shapes of various elements and angles are not drawn to scale, and some of these elements are arbitrarily enlarged and positioned to improve drawing legibility.

FIG.1 is a cross-sectional side view of an example of a system for generating and confining plasma comprising a plasma generator, a flux conserver and a power supply.

FIG. 2A is a graph showing plasma's poloidal magnetic field lines obtained from a number of probes when too much axial current is driven in a plasma confining system.

FIG. 2B is a graph showing plasma's poloidal magnetic field lines obtained from a number of probes when not enough axial current is driven in a plasma confining system.

FIGs. 3A and 3B respectively show graphs of plasma's poloidal and toroidal magnetic field lines obtained from a number of probes when axial current is not driven in a plasma confining system.

FIGs. 4A and 4B respectively show graphs of plasma's poloidal and toroidal magnetic field lines obtained from a number of probes when axial current is driven in a plasma confining system.

FIG. 5 is a schematic view of a controller for controlling and adjusting plasma's toroidal magnetic field.

FIG. 6A is a side cross-sectional view of an example of a flux conserver showing a number of measuring probes at various radial positions.

FIG. 6B is a top view of the flux conserver of FIG. 6A showing radial and angular position of a number of measuring probes.

FIG. 7 is a graph showing a signal obtained from visible light photosensor and its correlation to plasma magnetic field.


Detailed Description of Specific Embodiments



[0012] As mentioned herein before, the majority of the magnetic field in a magnetized plasma is created by currents flowing in the plasma itself and/or in the wall of the flux conserving chamber. The magnetic field in the magnetized plasma confines plasma energy by suppressing the transit of heat and particles from the core of the plasma to its edge. Since the path of charged particles in a magnetic field is confined to spirals that travel along field lines great care should be taken to ensure that the magnetic field lines run in the toroidal and poloidal direction but not along the radial direction to avoid a direct route from the core to the edge of the plasma. The ratio of toroidal to poloidal field on a flux surface can best be described by tracing out a field line and counting the number of toroidal turns it completes before completing one poloidal turn and this number is called a safety factor or q-factor. "q - profile" as used herein below means value of the plasma's q-factor along its radius, q-factor at the plasma's core is in general different than q-factor at the plasma's edge, so q-profile is plasma's q-factor along its radius. In general, the safety factor is

where, m is oscillation in poloidal direction and n is oscillation in toroidal direction. When q is a rational number (number expressed as fraction of two integers m and n) and integers m and n have low values (e.g. value of m and n less than 3) the plasma will resonate and will develop an asymmetry. Often this asymmetry rotates around the torus and can be detected by the phase of the signals obtained from the sensors as an oscillation in time. Such an asymmetry can reduce the heat confinement of the plasma configuration.

[0013] A current in a magnetic field will experience a force (Lorentz force) that is proportional to the strength of the magnetic field and the magnitude of the current flowing perpendicular to the magnetic field vector. This can be expressed in a vector equation as:



[0014] Only if the current I is flowing parallel to the magnetic field B then it will not experience a Lorentz force F.

[0015] When Lorentz force is applied to plasma (or any non-rigid body) it will accelerate the plasma until there is no longer a net force applied to it, at which point plasma is in equilibrium or force-free state. In the case of a CT (which is a self-magnetized plasma with internal currents and magnetic field) this equilibrium is the point at which the currents flow parallel to the magnetic field.

[0016] Therefore, there is a specific relative current profile at which the current and the magnetic field are in equilibrium everywhere and no portion of the plasma experiences forces. As used herein "current profile" means value of a current (as a function of radius) flowing in the system within a certain time period. In general magnetized plasma is characterized by a poloidal field and a poloidal current (current and the field are in the same direction) and a toroidal field and a toroidal current. The poloidal current generates the toroidal field and the toroidal current generates the poloidal field. If the plasma had a uniform temperature everywhere, plasma magnetic lifetime τmag would scale as:

where Te is an electron temperature. However the plasma does not have a uniform temperature which means the rate of current decay in the plasma edge (where the plasma is colder) is faster than in the plasma core. The magnetic lifetime of inhomogeneous plasma is described as:



[0017] As the edge current decays, equilibrium is lost and the plasma is pushed around by magnetic forces. As the current in the edge dissipates away, current from the plasma core is transported to the edge, which saps the core current faster than what would have been predicted from a Spitzer resistivity (electrical resistivity that is based upon electron-ion collisions).

[0018] Therefore, in order to improve the plasma confinement it was suggested that an additional current be run in a flux conserving chamber in order to increase plasma's toroidal field and thus increase plasma's q-profile. Such additional current pulse or pulses are driven in the flux conserver and are triggered after the decay of a plasma formation current pulse. The additional current pulse is driven through the wall of the flux conserver and along a central rod (see central rod 14a of FIG. 1) that extends through the axis of the toroid. This additional current pulse(s) is called an axial current pulse and is defined herein as a current that runs through the wall and the central rod of a flux conserving chamber and which is triggered after the decay of the plasma formation current pulse.

[0019] The confinement of plasma torus becomes unstable whenever a q-factor of the plasma reaches a rational number, such as 1/2, 1, 3/2, 2 etc. Experiments with certain prototypes of a plasma generator that are under construction at General Fusion, Inc. (Burnaby, Canada) show that the poloidal field decays with the decay of the plasma current while the toroidal field decreases with time constant L/R (inductance/resistance) of the plasma confinement system (e.g. plasma generator). Since the poloidal and toroidal magnetic fields decay at different rates, the q-factor goes up or down until it reaches a rational fraction, at which time plasma instability develops causing collapse of plasma confinement. FIG. 2A illustrates a graph of plasma's poloidal field over time obtained from different probes (one curve per probe) when too much axial current is driven in the flux conserver. As can be noticed by the graph in FIG. 2A, when too much current is driven in the flux conserver, the toroidal field increases and the q-profile can go up to for example 1 (in case the initial plasma's q-profile was between ½ and 1) causing swirling motion (oscillations 200) in the plasma resulting in destroyed flux surfaces, fast energy loss and shortening of plasma lifetime. So, when the poloidal field goes down faster (or the toroidal field increases faster than the decay of the poloidal field), the q-profile will increase and when reaches q rational number (i.e. q = 1) the plasma becomes unstable (e.g. n = 1 instability mode). This is so-called "over sustained" plasma. FIG. 2B illustrates a graph of plasma's poloidal field over time obtained from different probes (one curve per probe) when not enough axial current is driven in the flux conserver. When not enough axial current is driven in the flux conserver, the toroidal field drops faster than the poloidal field, and the q-profile will decrease and can hit q = ½ (in case the initial plasma's q-profile was between ½ and 1) which can lead to plasma instability, shown as oscillations 210 (e.g. n = 2 instability mode). This is so-called "under-sustained" plasma. As can been noticed from the graph, n = 2 instability mode may not collapse the plasma (not as bad as n = 1 mode) but, it shortens the life of the plasma which can be seen when compare graph of FIG. 2B to the graph of FIG. 4A that shows a magnetic field of sustained plasma (plasma that exist when one or more axial current pulses are driven in the flux conserver). As can been noticed the plasma's magnetic field lifetime in graph of FIG. 4A is much longer (n = 2 instabilities are avoided) comparing with the plasma's magnetic field lifetime shown in FIG. 2B.

[0020] It is necessary to control and adjust plasma's q-factor within a desired range to keep the plasma stable. Fine tuning and adjustment of the plasma's q-profile can result in low plasma fluctuations and improved plasma confinement. Measuring plasma's q-profile and its control in real time is complex exercise requiring complex modeling. However, the inventors have found that the ratio of plasma's toroidal to the poloidal field can be used as a proxy for q-profile measurements. The ratio of the toroidal to poloidal field can be actively, and in real time, controlled and maintained to an empirically determined optimum value that relates to a predetermined q-value. This can be achieved, in one implementation, by adjusting the external current drive. For example, when the magnetic field ratio falls to some empirically determined value (e.g. q-factor approaches rational number, e.g. ½), the toroidal field can be increased by for example driving a poloidal current (axial current) in the flux conserving chamber, which will raise the magnetic field ratio up, keeping the plasma's q between critical values (1/2<q<1).

[0021] FIG. 1 schematically shows an example of a system 10 for generating and confining plasma having a plasma generator 12, a target chamber such as a flux conserver 14 and a power source 22 having a formation power supply subsystem 22a and a sustainment power supply subsystem 22b. The flux conserver 14 comprises an axial, central, rod 14a. The power supply 22 can be a pulsed power supply comprising one or more capacitor banks for providing the formation pulse and one or more capacitor banks for providing additional power pulse, such as the axial current pulse(s) that flows through the central rod 14a and a wall of the flux conserver 14. In one implementation, the one or more capacitor banks that provide the formation pulse can provide the additional/axial current pulse as well. The generator 12 is configured to generate magnetized toroidal plasma, such as for example a spheromak or any other suitable magnetized plasma configuration. The generator 12 can include an outer electrode 16 and a coaxial inner electrode 15. The inner and the outer electrode 15 and 16 define an annular plasma formation channel 17 therein between. The plasma generator 12 can be, for example a one-stage Marshall gun or a two or more stages Marshall gun that can include acceleration section(s) in addition to the formation section to accelerate the formed plasma torus toward the flux conserver 14. FIG. 1 shows a one-stage Marshall gun with no acceleration section however a skilled person in the art would understand that the plasma generator 12 can be any other known plasma generator configured to generate and/or accelerate the plasma torus towards the flux conserver 14 without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0022] The generator 12 further comprises a series of magnetic coils 18 configured to provide a radial stuffing magnetic field for forming the plasma's poloidal field (see FIG. 2a). A power source (different from the power source 22) can be used to supply current to the coils 18. A pre-determined amount of gas is injected in the annular channel 17 through a ring of valves 20 that are located around the periphery of a generator's housing (only two valves 20 are shown in FIG. 1 and the rest are omitted for clarity). Each of the valves 20 are in fluid communication with a gas reservoir (not shown) and are operable to provide a substantially symmetrical introduction of gas into the formation channel 17. The injected gas can be for example, one or more isotopes of light elements i.e., isotopes of hydrogen (e.g., deuterium and/or tritium) and/or isotopes of helium (e.g., helium-3) or any other gas or gas mixture. Symmetrical introduction of the gas causes an annular cloud of gas to be formed in the channel 17. The system 10 may further be at least partially evacuated by using a pumping system connected to a pumping port 24. A number of viewing ports can be provided at various axial positions along the plasma generator 12 and/or flux conserver 14 to accommodate various measuring probes/detectors. An array of diagnostics can be provided to measure plasma's parameters (e.g. magnetic field, temperature, density, impurities) at various radial or axial positions, as well as system's parameters (e.g. current, voltage, etc.). Person skilled in the art would understand that any other configuration of plasma generator, coils or gas valves can be used without departing from the scope of the invention.

[0023] The coils 18 setup the stuffing magnetic field prior to the gas being injected into the annular channel 17 and prior to the current being discharged between the electrodes 15 and 16. For example, the stuffing magnetic field can be applied a few seconds before the discharge. Once the gas has diffused to at least partially fill the formation channel 17, the formation subsystem 22a of the power source 22 (e.g., the formation capacitor bank) can be triggered causing a formation current pulse to flow between the electrodes 15 and 16. The current passes through the gas in a substantially radial direction, ionizing the gas and forming the plasma. This current can create a toroidal magnetic field in the plasma, and the gradient of the magnetic pressure can exert a force (Lorentz force) I × B that can cause motion of the plasma down the annular channel 17 toward the flux conserver 14. As the plasma moves toward the flux conserver 14, it interacts with the stuffing magnetic field generated by the coils 18. The force that displaces the plasma toward the flux conserver 14 has sufficient strength to overcome the tension force of the stuffing magnetic field so that the stuffing field is weakened and deformed by the advancing plasma (bubbling stage). Eventually the plasma breaks free so that the magnetic field can wrap around the plasma forming a magnetized plasma torus with a poloidal magnetic field and a toroidal magnetic field. Once the generator 12 (e.g. the plasma gun) ceases to inject toroidal flux, the magnetic fields in the plasma quickly self-organize to form the plasma torus, e.g. spheromak.

[0024] After the formation pulse decays, the sustainment subsystem 22b (sustainment capacitor bank) of the source 22 can be triggered to provide the additional current pulse or pulses so that the current continue flowing in the flux conserver 14 (axial rod 14a and the wall of the chamber 14). Such additional, axial, current pulse is at a reduced level comparing to the initial, formation, pulse. For example, the formation current pulse can be about 500 - 900 kA for about 10 - 40 µs. The additional current pulse can be about 150 - 250 kA and it can be designed to decay with a L/R (inductance/resistance) time constant of about 100 µs - 5 ms depending on the system's parameters. A person skilled in the art would understand that different values for currents or L/R timescales can be provided without departing from the scope of the invention. The L/R timescales can be changed by suitably selecting L and/or R, for example, by selecting the resistance R for a given value of the inductance L of the system 10.

[0025] FIG. 3A illustrates examples of a poloidal field of the plasma, obtained in the experiments conducted in General Fusion Inc., when no additional, axial, current is driven in the flux conserver 14, and FIG. 4A illustrates the poloidal field when additional (axial) current is driven in the flux conserver 14. FIG. 3B and FIG. 4B illustrate the toroidal field of such unsustained plasma and sustained plasma, respectively. As can be noticed when no additional, axial current pulse is provided, the magnetic field of the plasma lasts at most about 200 µs (see FIG. 3A) where with the additional, axial, current pulse(s) (see FIG. 4A) the plasma lives much longer (e.g. about 600 µs). As shown in FIG. 4A, when the additional axial current pulse is triggered in addition to the formation pulse, the plasma torus experiences some turbulence at the beginning during formation period but after this initial turbulence it becomes very calm (stable) until turbulence develops at 600 µs that terminates the discharge and the plasma.

[0026] During plasma stabilization/relaxation period, plasma's q will rise or fall depending on whether toroidal or poloidal field decays faster. Normally, poloidal field (from toroidal current in the plasma) decays faster than toroidal field, which can be maintained by the axial current. By reducing the inductance such that q falls during stabilization, one can use the axial current discharge to keep the q away from rational number values. In order to actively control the additional, axial, current pulse to keep the plasma stable for a longer time, a controller 501 (see FIG. 5) has been provided. Since the rate of decay of the poloidal field changes from shot to shot (it decays with the decay of the plasma current), the toroidal field needs to be controlled and adjusted to match the poloidal decay rate, so that the plasma's q-profile can be kept approximately constant, at value different than rational fraction, such as for example between ½ and 1 (1/2<q<1). The controller 501 includes an input unit, an output unit and a processing unit and can be located remotely from the system 10. The controller 501 is in communication with a number of probes 502. The probes 502 can provide signals of the parameters of the plasma over time. For example the probes 502 can be magnetic probes (e.g. B-dot probes or any other suitable magnetic probes) that can be positioned in the wall of the flux conserver 14 and/or the plasma gun 12 and can be configured to provide signals of the poloidal and toroidal field in the plasma. The magnetic probes can provide data of the plasma's magnetic field (poloidal and toroidal component) at various axial/radial and/or angular positions over time. FIG. 6A illustrates an example of the flux conserver 14 showing a number of probes 502a positioned at a upper portion of the flux conserver 14 (upper portion of the rod 14a) and a number of probes 502b positioned at a lower portion of the flux conserver 14 (lower portion of the rod 14a). The probes 502a and 502b can be magnetic probes and each of such probes can provide one signal for plasma's poloidal field and another signal for plasma's toroidal field. For example, each of the probes 502a, 502b can comprise two separate coils located near probe's tip. One of the coils can be oriented so that it will capture the signal of plasma's poloidal field and the other coil can be directed to measure plasma's toroidal field. Each of the probes 502a, 502b has a different radial, axial and/or angular position so that the magnetic field at various radial, axial and/or angular positions in the plasma can be measured over time. Based on the signals from various probes at various radial/angular positions, plasma's poloidal and toroidal field lines can be modeled and plasma's q-profile can be extrapolated. FIG. 6B shows positions of the probes at various angles. Person skilled in the art would understand that the number of probes and their position can vary without departing from the scope of the invention. In one implementation, probes 502 can be current or voltage measuring probes that can provide signals of plasma poloidal and toroidal currents. In another embodiment, the probes 502 can be interferometer, x-ray photodiode, an image detecting sensor or any other sensors that can provide information of plasma parameters. For example, FIG. 7 illustrates an example of the signal obtained from visible light sensor (i.e. optical fiber) that detects light radiating from the plasma and its correlation to plasma's magnetic field. As can been noticed when plasma experience some turbulence/instabilities, depicted as oscillations 710 in the magnetic field signal 700, the visible light signal 800 shows activities (oscillations 810) as well. Therefore, the controller 501 can receive as an input signals from sensors other than the magnetic probes and can process such signals to detect any irregularities (or oscillations) in such signals. In one implementation, the controller 501 can be fed with signals from all sensors used in the system 10.

[0027] The signals from the probes 502 are fed into the controller 501 as an input through the input unit. In one implementation, the controller 501 can comprise a memory with program code stored thereon that is executable by the processing unit to process the signals and estimate in real-time a ratio of toroidal to poloidal field at each position and/or an average ratio value. Experimentally, for a predefined parameters of the system 10, it was found an optimum threshold range of the ratio for which the extrapolated q-profile of the plasma is maintained between rational values (e.g. between ½ and 1). Such experimentally found optimal value (optimal range) is inputted in the controller 501, so that the controller 501 can compare the magnetic field ratio calculated based on the signals from the probes and the threshold value. If the measured signal of the magnetic field ratio is close to or below a lower value of the optimal empirical threshold value, the controller 501 sends an output signal to the power source 22 to trigger one or more of the sustainment capacitor banks 22b to trigger the axial current pulse to bring the toroidal field up thus keep the magnetic field ratio constant within the empirically found optimal range.

[0028] In one implementation of the system 10, the sustainment subsystem 22b of the power supply 22 is provided with an inductor and/or a crow-bar diode(s) arrangement 26 (see FIG. 1) to adjust inductance to resistance (L/R) time constant and to provide circulating axial current in the wall of the flux conserver 14 and the central rod 14a. The current can be adjusted to decay with a time constant L/R. This can be done by adjusting the inductor and/or the diodes 26. If the time constant L/R is set up too long, then the toroidal field decays slower than the poloidal field and the plasma's magnetic field ratio will go upwards leading to plasma turbulence (n = 1 instability mode). If the time constant L/R is set up too short, the toroidal field will decay faster than the poloidal field and the magnetic field ratio goes downward leading again to plasma turbulence (n = 2 instability mode). In order to have a servo control of the current pulse the time constant L/R need to be set up to be shorter than the shortest decay time of the poloidal field, such that the ratio of the toroidal to poloidal magnetic fields can drift downward. For example, for plasma with a magnetic life between 250 - 300 µs, the L/R time constant can be set up at about 200 µs. Instead of firing all of the capacitors of the sustainment bank at the same time, several capacitors are kept in reserve. When the controller 501 indicates that the estimated ratio drops below an empirically derived threshold, it can send a signal to the power source 22 to trigger another capacitor from the sustainment bank 22b to boost the poloidal current (toroidal field), and therefore bring the ratio of the magnetic fields up. For example, when the ratio of the toroidal to poloidal field drops below 0.6, the controller 501 triggers the power source 22 to bring the magnetic field ratio up. However, the additional (axial) current pulses triggered to control the magnetic field ratio are set up so that the ratio never exceeds the upper threshold of for example 0.9. A person skilled in the art would understand that the value of the L/R time constant and lower and upper threshold values can be different, depending on plasma configurations and thus plasma's q-profile within which one wants to maintain such plasma, without departing from the scope of the invention. In this way, the ratio of the magnetic fields (and indirectly q-profile of the plasma) can be maintained within the optimal threshold window regardless of the decay rate of the poloidal field.

[0029] When the plasma torus goes unstable at q=½, the instability shows up with an n=2 mode and can be determined by the phase of the signals obtained from the probes 502 positioned at different angular positions to each other which will show correlated instability. When the plasma torus goes unstable at q=1, the instability shows an n=1 mode and can be determined by the phase of the signals from the probes 502 positioned at different angular positions which will show the instability with anti-correlation.

[0030] In one implementation, the processing unit can execute program code that processes the signals from the probes 502, such as the magnetic probes, interferometers, x-ray photodiodes, visible light detector or any other sensor to detect any oscillations in the signals (i.e. oscillations 200, 210 in FIGs. 2A, 2B or oscillations 710, 810 in FIG. 7). These oscillations can indicate instabilities in the plasma caused by too little toroidal magnetic field. When the controller detects oscillations in the signals from one or multiple probes it triggers the power source 22 to provide additional current pulse to increase the toroidal field of the plasma. In one embodiment, the controller can comprise memory with program code stored thereon executable by the processing unit to calculate an instability mode of the plasma based on the oscillations' phase in the signals obtained from different probes at different angular position around the flux conserver 14. For example, if the identified oscillations indicate instability mode 2 (q = 1/2) the additional axial current pulse is triggered to increase the toroidal field of the plasma and bring plasma's q up above 1/2. In case the identified instability mode is n = 1 the controller doesn't trigger the power source but can adjust the L/R time constant. In another implementation, the controller 501 can comprise program code executable by the processing unit that can process the signals obtained from the x-ray probes and when the signal drops down indicating plasma cooling, the controller 501 can send a signal to the power source 22 to trigger the additional axial current pulse. In one embodiment, the processing unit can execute program code that can process any and all signals from any or all probes and can make a decision to trigger additional poloidal current in the chamber 14 if a signal from at least one of the probes indicates development of plasma instabilities.

[0031] Embodiments of a plasma generation system with a controller for controlling a decay time of plasma magnetic field are disclosed. Any of such embodiments can be used for generation of high energy density plasma suited for applications in neutron generators, nuclear fusion, nuclear waste remediation, generation of medical nucleotides, for materials research, for remote imaging of the internal structure of objects via neutron radiography and tomography, x-rays generator, etc.

[0032] While particular elements, embodiments and applications of the present disclosure have been shown and described, it will be understood, that the scope of the disclosure is not limited thereto, since modifications can be made without departing from the scope of the present disclosure, particularly in light of the foregoing teachings. Thus, for example, in any method or process disclosed herein, the acts or operations making up the method/process may be performed in any suitable sequence and are not necessarily limited to any particular disclosed sequence. Elements and components can be configured or arranged differently, combined, and/or eliminated in various embodiments. The various features and processes described above may be used independently of one another, or may be combined in various ways. All possible combinations and sub-combinations are intended to fall within the scope of this disclosure. Reference throughout this disclosure to "some embodiments," "an embodiment," or the like, means that a particular feature, structure, step, process, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment. Thus, appearances of the phrases "in some embodiments," "in an embodiment," or the like, throughout this disclosure are not necessarily all referring to the same embodiment and may refer to one or more of the same or different embodiments. Indeed, the novel methods and systems described herein may be embodied in a variety of other forms. In any case, it must be intended that the scope of the invention is defined by the appended claims.

[0033] Various aspects and advantages of the embodiments have been described where appropriate. It is to be understood that not necessarily all such aspects or advantages may be achieved in accordance with any particular embodiment. Thus, for example, it should be recognized that the various embodiments may be carried out in a manner that achieves or optimizes one advantage or group of advantages as taught herein without necessarily achieving other aspects or advantages as may be taught or suggested herein.

[0034] Conditional language used herein, such as, among others, "can," "could," "might," "may," "e.g.," and the like, unless specifically stated otherwise, or otherwise understood within the context as used, is generally intended to convey that certain embodiments include, while other embodiments do not include, certain features, elements and/or steps. Thus, such conditional language is not generally intended to imply that features, elements and/or steps are in any way required for one or more embodiments or that one or more embodiments necessarily include logic for deciding, with or without operator input or prompting, whether these features, elements and/or steps are included or are to be performed in any particular embodiment. No single feature or group of features is required for or indispensable to any particular embodiment. The terms "comprising," "including," "having," and the like are synonymous and are used inclusively, in an open-ended fashion, and do not exclude additional elements, features, acts, operations, and so forth.

[0035] The example calculations, simulations, results, graphs, values, and parameters of the embodiments described herein are intended to illustrate and not to limit the disclosed embodiments. Other embodiments can be configured and/or operated differently than the illustrative examples described herein.


Claims

1. A system for controlling a magnetic lifetime of a magnetized plasma, the system comprising:

a controller (501) comprising an input unit, a processing unit and an output unit;

a flux conserving chamber (14); a plurality of measuring probes (502) positioned at various radial, axial and angular positions in a wall of the flux conserving chamber, each of the plurality of measuring probes configured to provide signals of at least one parameter of the plasma to the input unit of the controller; and

a power source (22) in communication with the output unit of the controller, the power source configured to provide one or more additional axial current pulses to the system to increase a toroidal magnetic field of the plasma, and having means for adjusting an inductance-to-resistance (L/R) time constant of the power source to adjust a current decay time of the current pulses, the controller (501) having a memory comprising program code executable by the processing unit in order to configure the unit to process the signals obtained from the plurality of measuring probes (502) to detect an irregularity in the obtained signals and to trigger the power source to provide an additional current pulse based on a detected irregularity in the signal of at least one probe,

wherein said means are configured to adjust the L/R time constant of the power source to be shorter than a shortest decay time of a poloidal field of the plasma.
 
2. The system of claim 1, wherein the means for adjusting the L/R time constant is an inductor.
 
3. The system of claim 1, wherein the controller further comprises program code executable by the processing unit in order to configure the unit to further calculate a ratio of the toroidal to poloidal magnetic field of the plasma, compare the calculated ratio to an empirically derived lower threshold value and trigger the power source to provide the additional current pulse when the calculated ratio is below the lower threshold value.
 
4. The system of claim 3, wherein the controller further comprises program code executable by the processing unit in order to configure the unit to maintain the magnetic field ratio between the lower threshold value and an upper threshold value.
 
5. The system of claim 1, wherein the controller further comprises program code executable by the processing unit in order to configure the unit to further detect any oscillations in any signals obtained from the probes, the additional current pulse being triggered when oscillations are detected in a signal obtained from at least one of the probes.
 
6. The system of claim 5, wherein the controller further comprises program code executable by the processing unit in order to configure the unit to calculate an instability mode of the plasma based on a phase of the oscillations in the signals obtained from the probes positioned at different angular positions, the program code further executable by the processing unit in order to configure the unit to adjust timing of the triggering of the additional current pulse based on the calculated instability mode.
 
7. A method for controlling a magnetic lifetime of a magnetized plasma, the method comprising:

adjusting an inductance to resistance (L/R) time constant of a power source (22) to be shorter than a shortest decay time of a poloidal field of the magnetized plasma;

measuring one or more parameters of the plasma by a plurality of probes (502) positioned at various radial, axial and angular positions in a wall of a flux conserving chamber (14) to detect the parameters at various positions from a magnetic axis of the plasma;

processing signals obtained from the plurality of probes and detecting an irregularity in the obtained signals; and

triggering the power source to provide an additional axial current pulse based on a detected irregularity in a signal of at least one probe.


 
8. The method of claim 7, wherein the method further comprises calculating a ratio of toroidal to poloidal magnetic field of the plasma, comparing the calculated ratio to an empirically derived lower threshold value and triggering the power source to provide the additional current pulse when the calculated ratio is below the empirically derived lower threshold value.
 
9. The method of claim 7, wherein the method further comprises detecting whether any oscillations are present in the signals obtained from the probes and triggering the additional current pulse when oscillations are detected.
 
10. The method of claim 9, wherein the method further comprises calculating an instability mode of the plasma based on a phase of the oscillations in the signals from the probes positioned at different angular position, and adjusting a timing of the triggering of the additional current pulse based on the calculated instability mode.
 


Ansprüche

1. System zur Steuerung einer magnetischen Lebensdauer eines magnetisierten Plasmas, wobei das System umfasst:

eine Steuerung (501), umfassend eine Eingabeeinheit, eine Verarbeitungseinheit und eine Ausgabeeinheit;

eine Fluss bewahrende Kammer (14);

eine Vielzahl von Messsonden (502), die in verschiedenen radialen, axialen und Winkelpositionen in einer Wand der Fluss bewahrenden Kammer positioniert sind, wobei jede von der Vielzahl der Messsonden konfiguriert ist, um der Eingabeeinheit der Steuerung Signale von mindestens einem Parameter des Plasmas bereitzustellen; und

eine Stromquelle (22) in Kommunikation mit der Ausgabeeinheit der Steuerung, wobei die Stromquelle konfiguriert ist, um dem System einen oder mehrere zusätzliche axiale Strompulse bereitzustellen, um ein toroidales Magnetfeld des Plasmas zu erhöhen, und mit Mitteln zum Anpassen einer Induktanz-zu-Widerstand- (L/R)-Zeitkonstante der Stromquelle, um eine Stromabklingzeit der Strompulse anzupassen,

wobei die Steuerung (501) einen Speicher aufweist, der Programmcode umfasst, der durch die Verarbeitungseinheit ausführbar ist, um die Einheit zu konfigurieren, um die von der Vielzahl der Messsonden (502) erhaltenen Signale zu verarbeiten, um eine Unregelmäßigkeit in den erhaltenen Signalen zu detektieren, und die Stromquelle zu triggern, um einen zusätzlichen Strompuls basierend auf einer detektierten Unregelmäßigkeit in dem Signal von mindestens einer Sonde bereitzustellen,

wobei die Mittel konfiguriert sind, um die L/R-Zeitkonstante der Stromquelle so anzupassen, dass sie kürzer als eine kürzeste Abklingzeit eines poloidalen Feldes des Plasmas ist.


 
2. System nach Anspruch 1, wobei das Mittel zum Anpassen der L/R-Zeitkonstante ein Induktor ist.
 
3. System nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Steuerung ferner Programmcode umfasst, der durch die Verarbeitungseinheit ausführbar ist, um die Einheit zu konfigurieren, um ferner ein Verhältnis des toroidalen zu dem poloidalen Magnetfeld des Plasmas zu berechnen, das berechnete Verhältnis mit einem empirisch abgeleiteten unteren Schwellenwert zu vergleichen und die Stromquelle zu triggern, um den zusätzlichen Strompuls bereitzustellen, wenn das berechnete Verhältnis unter dem unteren Schwellenwert liegt.
 
4. System nach Anspruch 3, wobei die Steuerung ferner Programmcode umfasst, der durch die Verarbeitungseinheit ausführbar ist, um die Einheit zu konfigurieren, um das Magnetfeldverhältnis zwischen dem unteren Schwellenwert und einem oberen Schwellenwert zu halten.
 
5. System nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Steuerung ferner Programmcode umfasst, der durch die Verarbeitungseinheit ausführbar ist, um die Einheit zu konfigurieren, um ferner irgendwelche Oszillationen in jedweden Signalen zu detektieren, die von den Sonden erhalten wurden, wobei der zusätzliche Strompuls getriggert wird, wenn Oszillationen in einem Signal detektiert werden, das von mindestens einer der Sonden erhalten wird.
 
6. System nach Anspruch 5, wobei die Steuerung ferner Programmcode umfasst, der durch die Verarbeitungseinheit ausführbar ist, um die Einheit zu konfigurieren, einen Instabilitätsmodus des Plasmas basierend auf einer Phase der Oszillationen in den Signalen zu berechnen, die von den Sonden erhalten wurden, die an unterschiedlichen Winkelpositionen positioniert wurden, wobei der Programmcode ferner durch die Verarbeitungseinheit ausführbar ist, um die Einheit zu konfigurieren, die Zeitwahl des Triggerns des zusätzlichen Strompulses basierend auf dem berechneten Instabilitätsmodus anzupassen.
 
7. Verfahren zur Steuerung einer magnetischen Lebensdauer eines magnetisierten Plasmas, wobei das Verfahren umfasst:

Anpassen einer Induktanz-zu-Widerstand- (L/R)-Zeitkonstante der Stromquelle (22), so dass sie kürzer als eine kürzeste Abklingzeit eines poloidalen Feldes des magnetisierten Plasmas ist;

Messen von einem oder mehreren Parametern des Plasmas durch eine Vielzahl von Sonden (502), die an verschiedenen radialen, axialen und Winkelpositionen in einer Wand einer Fluss bewahrenden Kammer (14) positioniert sind, um die Parameter an verschiedenen Positionen von einer magnetischen Achse des Plasmas zu detektieren;

Verarbeiten von Signalen, die von der Vielzahl der Sonden erhalten wurden, und Detektieren einer Unregelmäßigkeit in den erhaltenen Signalen; und

Triggern der Stromquelle, um einen zusätzlichen axialen Strompuls basierend auf einer detektierten Unregelmäßigkeit in einem Signal von mindestens einer Sonde bereitzustellen.


 
8. Verfahren nach Anspruch 7, wobei das Verfahren ferner umfasst: Berechnen eines Verhältnisses des toroidalen zu dem poloidalen Magnetfeld des Plasmas, Vergleichen des berechneten Verhältisses mit einem empirisch abgeleiteten unteren Schwellenwert und Triggern der Stromquelle, um den zusätzlichen Strompuls bereitzustellen, wenn das berechnete Verhältnis unter dem empirisch abgeleiteten unteren Schwellenwert liegt.
 
9. Verfahren nach Anspruch 7, wobei das Verfahren ferner umfasst: Detektieren, ob irgendwelche Oszillationen in den Signalen vorhanden sind, die von den Sonden erhalten wurden, und Triggern des zusätzlichen Strompulses, wenn Oszillationen detektiert werden.
 
10. Verfahren nach Anspruch 9, wobei das Verfahren ferner umfasst: Berechnen eines Instabilitätsmodus des Plasmas basierend auf einer Phase der Oszillationen in den Signalen von den Sonden, die an unterschiedlichen Winkelpositionen positioniert sind, und Anpassen einer Zeitwahl des Triggerns des zusätzlichen Strompulses basierend auf dem berechneten Instabilitätsmodus.
 


Revendications

1. Système destiné à contrôler une durée de vie magnétique d'un plasma aimanté, le système comprenant :

un contrôleur (501) comprenant une unité d'entrée, une unité de traitement et une unité de sortie ;

une chambre de conservation de flux (14) ; une pluralité de sondes de mesure (502) positionnées à diverses positions radiales, axiales et angulaires dans une paroi de la chambre de conservation de flux, chacune de la pluralité de sondes de mesure étant configurée pour délivrer des signaux d'au moins un paramètre du plasma à l'unité d'entrée du contrôleur ; et

une source d'alimentation (22) en communication avec l'unité de sortie du contrôleur, la source d'alimentation étant configurée pour délivrer une ou plusieurs impulsions de courant axial supplémentaires au système pour augmenter un champ magnétique toroïdal du plasma, et ayant des moyens pour régler une constante temporelle inductance/résistance (L/R) de la source d'alimentation pour régler une durée d'extinction du courant des impulsions de courant,

le contrôleur (501) ayant une mémoire comprenant un code de programme exécutable par l'unité de traitement afin de configurer l'unité pour qu'elle traite les signaux obtenus à partir de la pluralité de sondes de mesure (502) pour détecter une irrégularité dans les signaux obtenus et pour déclencher la source d'alimentation pour délivrer une impulsion de courant supplémentaire sur la base d'une irrégularité détectée dans le signal d'au moins une sonde,

lesdits moyens étant configurés pour régler la constante temporelle L/R de la source d'alimentation pour qu'elle soit plus courte qu'une durée d'extinction la plus courte d'un champ poloïdal du plasma.


 
2. Système de la revendication 1, dans lequel le moyen pour régler la constante temporelle L/R est une bobine d'induction.
 
3. Système de la revendication 1, dans lequel le contrôleur comprend en outre un code de programme exécutable par l'unité de traitement afin de configurer l'unité pour qu'elle calcule également un rapport entre champ magnétique toroïdal et poloïdal du plasma, compare le rapport calculé à une valeur seuil inférieure déduite de façon empirique et déclenche la source d'alimentation pour qu'elle délivre l'impulsion de courant supplémentaire quand le rapport calculé est sous la valeur seuil inférieure.
 
4. Système de la revendication 3, dans lequel le contrôleur comprend en outre un code de programme exécutable par l'unité de traitement afin de configurer l'unité pour qu'elle maintienne le rapport de champ magnétique entre la valeur seuil inférieure et une valeur seuil supérieure.
 
5. Système de la revendication 1, dans lequel le contrôleur comprend en outre un code de programme exécutable par l'unité de traitement afin de configurer l'unité pour qu'elle détecte également toutes oscillations dans tous signaux obtenus à partir des sondes, l'impulsion de courant supplémentaire étant déclenchée quand des oscillations sont détectées dans un signal obtenu à partir d'au moins une des sondes.
 
6. Système de la revendication 5, dans lequel le contrôleur comprend en outre un code de programme exécutable par l'unité de traitement afin de configurer l'unité pour qu'elle calcule un mode d'instabilité du plasma sur la base d'une phase des oscillations dans les signaux obtenus à partir des sondes positionnées à différentes positions angulaires, le code de programme également exécutable par l'unité de traitement afin de configurer l'unité pour qu'elle règle une synchronisation du déclenchement de l'impulsion de courant supplémentaire sur la base du mode instabilité calculé.
 
7. Procédé destiné à contrôler une durée de vie magnétique d'un plasma aimanté, le procédé comprenant :

le réglage d'une constante temporelle inductance/résistance (L/R) d'une source d'alimentation (22) pour qu'elle soit plus courte qu'une durée d'extinction la plus courte d'un champ poloïdal du plasma aimanté ;

la mesure d'un ou plusieurs paramètres du plasma par une pluralité de sondes (502) positionnées à diverses positions radiales, axiales et angulaires dans une paroi d'une chambre de conservation de flux (14) pour détecter les paramètres à diverses positions par rapport à un axe magnétique du plasma ;

le traitement de signaux obtenus à partir de la pluralité de sondes et la détection d'une irrégularité dans les signaux obtenus ; et

le déclenchement de la source d'alimentation pour qu'elle délivre une impulsion de courant axial supplémentaire sur la base d'une irrégularité détectée dans un signal d'au moins une sonde.


 
8. Procédé de la revendication 7, le procédé comprenant en outre le calcul d'un rapport entre champ magnétique toroïdal et poloïdal du plasma, la comparaison du rapport calculé à une valeur seuil inférieure déduite de façon empirique et le déclenchement de la source d'alimentation pour qu'elle délivre l'impulsion de courant supplémentaire quand le rapport calculé est sous la valeur seuil inférieure déduite de façon empirique.
 
9. Procédé de la revendication 7, le procédé comprenant en outre les étapes consistant à détecter si de quelconques oscillations sont présentes dans les signaux obtenus à partir des sondes et déclencher l'impulsion de courant supplémentaire quand des oscillations sont détectées.
 
10. Procédé de la revendication 9, le procédé comprenant en outre le calcul d'un mode d'instabilité du plasma sur la base d'une phase des oscillations dans les signaux provenant des sondes positionnées à une position angulaire différente, et le réglage d'une synchronisation du déclenchement de l'impulsion de courant supplémentaire sur la base du mode d'instabilité calculé.
 




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REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description