A nonlinear gyrokinetic simulation model, which recovers the ideal magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) theory in the linear long-wavelength regime, is formulated for studying kinetic MHD processes in magnetized plasmas. This comprehensive formulation enables gyrokinetic simulation of both pressure gradient-driven and current-driven instabilities including ideal and kinetic ballooning modes, kink modes, and shear Alfvén waves, as well as their nonlinear interactions in multi-scale simulations.
Implemented in the gyrokinetic toroidal code (GTC), the new formulation is verified in simulations of reversed shear Alfvén eigenmode (RSAE) in fusion plasmas. The antenna excitation of RSAE provides verifications of its mode structure, frequency and damping rate from the initial perturbation simulation with kinetic thermal ions. When excited by fast ions, their non-perturbative contributions modify the mode structure relative to the ideal MHD theory. With inclusion of thermal plasma pressure, the mode frequency increases due to the elevation of the Alfvén continuum by the geodesic compressibility. The GTC simulations have been benchmarked with extended hybrid MHD-gyrokinetic simulations.
The verified gyrokinetic simulation model is applied to studying the linear properties of RSAE driven by density gradient of neutral beam injected fast ions in a well-diagnosed DIII-D tokamak experiment (discharge #142111). GTC simulations find that weakly damped RSAE exists due to toroidal coupling and other geometric effects. Various damping and driving mechanisms are identified and measured in the simulations, which shows that accurate damping and growth rate calculation requires true mode structure from non-perturbative, fully self-consistent simulation. The mode structure has no up-down symmetry mainly due to the radial symmetry breaking by the radial variation of fast ion density gradient, as measured in the experiment by electron cyclotron emission imaging. The RSAE frequency up-sweeping and the mode transition from RSAE to toroidal Alfvén eigenmode are in good agreement with the experimental results when scanning the values of the minimum safety factor in simulations. Good agreements in frequencies, growth rates, and mode structures are obtained among simulations of gyrokinetic codes GTC and GYRO, and an MHD-hybrid code TAEFL, which provide further verification and validation of the gyrokinetic model for simulating the kinetic MHD processes.
As a prelude to nonlinear simulations of RSAE and associated fast ion transport, properties of microturbulence in reversed shear plasmas are also studied.