Date of Award

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Nuclear Engineering

First Advisor

Ahmed Hassanein

Committee Chair

Ahmed Hassanein

Committee Member 1

Lefteri Tsoukalas

Committee Member 2

Valeryi Sizyuk

Committee Member 3

Sivanandan S. Harilal


Damage to plasma-facing components (PFC) due to various plasma instabilities is still a major concern for the successful development of fusion energy and represents a significant research obstacle in the community. It is of great importance to fully understand the behavior and lifetime expectancy of PFC under both low energy cycles during normal events and highly energetic events as disruptions, Edge-Localized Modes (ELM), Vertical Displacement Events (VDE), and Run-away electron (RE). The consequences of these high energetic dumps with energy fluxes ranging from 10 MJ/m2 up to 200 MJ/m2 applied in very short periods (0.1 to 5 ms) can be catastrophic both for safety and economic reasons. Those phenomena can cause a) large temperature increase in the target material b) consequent melting, evaporation and erosion losses due to the extremely high heat fluxes c) possible structural damage and permanent degradation of the entire bulk material with probable burnout of the coolant tubes; d) plasma contamination, transport of target material into the chamber far from where it was originally picked. The modeling of off-normal events such as Disruptions and ELMs requires the simultaneous solution of three main problems along time: a) the heat transfer in the plasma facing component b) the interaction of the produced vapor from the surface with the incoming plasma particles c) the transport of the radiation produced in the vapor-plasma cloud. In addition the moving boundaries problem has to be considered and solved at the material surface. Considering the carbon divertor as target, the moving boundaries are two since for the given conditions, carbon doesn't melt: the plasma front and the moving eroded material surface. The current solution methods for this problem use finite differences and moving coordinates system based on the Crank-Nicholson method and Alternating Directions Implicit Method (ADI). Currently Particle-In-Cell (PIC) methods are widely used for solving complex dynamics problems involving distorted plasma hydrodynamic problems and plasma physics. The PIC method solves the hydrodynamic equations solving all field equations tracking at the same time "sample particles" or pseudo-particles (representative of the much more numerous real ones) as the move under the influence of diffusion or magnetic force. The superior behavior of the PIC techniques over the more classical Lagrangian finite difference methods stands in the fact that detailed information about the particles are available at all times as well as mass and momentum transport values are constantly provided. This allows with a relative

small number of particles to well describe the behavior of plasma even in presence of highly distorted flows without losing accuracy. The radiation transport equation is solved at each time step calculating for each cell the opacity and emissivity coefficients. Photon radiation continuum and line fluxes are also calculated per the entire domain and provide useful information for the entire energetic calculation of the system which in the end provides the total values of erosion and lifetime of the target material. In this thesis, a new code named HEIGHTS-PIC code has been created and modified using a new approach of the PIC technique to solve the three physics problems involved integrating each of them as a continuum providing insight on the plasma behavior, evolution along time and physical understanding of the very complex phenomena taking place. The results produced with the models are compared with the well-known and benchmarked HEIGHTS package and also with existing experimental results especially produced in Russia at the TRINITI facility. Comparisons with LASER experiments are also discussed.