Microwave diagnostics damage by parametric decay instabilities during electron cyclotron resonance heating in ASDEX Upgrade

the Eurofusion MST1 Team, the ASDEX Upgrade Team

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We present observations of microwave diagnostics damage in three discharges employing third-harmonic X-mode electron cylcotron resonance heating (ECRH) at the ASDEX Upgrade tokamak. In all cases, the diagnostics damage is explainable in terms of a parametric decay instability (PDI), where an X-mode ECRH wave decays to two trapped upper hybrid (UH) waves near half the ECRH frequency, followed by secondary instabilities, which generate strong microwave signals near multiples of half the ECRH frequency that cause the damage. Trapping of the UH waves near half the ECRH frequency is necessary to reduce the ECRH power required for exciting the PDIs to a level attainable at ASDEX Upgrade, and may occur when the second-harmonic UH resonance of the ECRH waves is present in a region of non-monotonic electron density, e.g. near the O-point of a magnetohydrodynamic mode or the plasma center. The diagnostics damage in the three discharges may be attributed to PDIs occurring near the O-point of a rotating mode, near the plasma center, and near the O-point of a locked mode, respectively. In the rotating mode case, the strong signals are shown to be quasi-periodic, with spikes occurring when the O-point of the mode passes through an ECRH beam, as expected. In the locked mode case, Thomson scattering profiles demonstrate the possibility of the primary PDI occurring based on experimental data for the first time under fusion-relevant conditions. Applying the framework used for ASDEX Upgrade to the X-mode ECRH scenarios planned for the early operation phase of ITER, the PDIs are found to be likely in connection with 170 GHz ECRH of half field scenarios and 104 GHz (or 110 GHz) ECRH of one third field scenarios. Finally, several strategies for mitigating diagnostics damage are proposed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number095002
JournalPlasma Physics and Controlled Fusion
Issue number9
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • ASDEX Upgrade
  • ECRH
  • ITER
  • Microwave diagnostics
  • Microwave spikes
  • PDI
  • Wave trapping


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