Ion-scale turbulence in MAST: Anomalous transport, subcritical transitions, and comparison to BES measurements

F. Van Wyk, E. G. Highcock, A. R. Field, C. M. Roach, A. A. Schekochihin, F. I. Parra, W. Dorland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


We investigate the effect of varying the ion temperature gradient (ITG) and toroidal equilibrium scale sheared flow on ion-scale turbulence in the outer core of MAST by means of local gyrokinetic simulations. We show that nonlinear simulations reproduce the experimental ion heat flux and that the experimentally measured values of the ITG and the flow shear lie close to the turbulence threshold. We demonstrate that the system is subcritical in the presence of flow shear, i.e., the system is formally stable to small perturbations, but transitions to a turbulent state given a large enough initial perturbation. We propose that the transition to subcritical turbulence occurs via an intermediate state dominated by low number of coherent long-lived structures, close to threshold, which increase in number as the system is taken away from the threshold into the more strongly turbulent regime, until they fill the domain and a more conventional turbulence emerges. We show that the properties of turbulence are effectively functions of the distance to threshold, as quantified by the ion heat flux. We make quantitative comparisons of correlation lengths, times, and amplitudes between our simulations and experimental measurements using the MAST BES diagnostic. We find reasonable agreement of the correlation properties, most notably of the correlation time, for which significant discrepancies were found in previous numerical studies of MAST turbulence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114003
JournalPlasma Physics and Controlled Fusion
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 18 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nuclear Energy and Engineering
  • Condensed Matter Physics


  • flow shear
  • gyrokinetic simulations
  • ion temperature gradient
  • subcritical turbulence


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