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Computing the shape gradient of stellarator coil complexity with respect to the plasma boundary

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 April 2021

Arthur Carlton-Jones*
University of Maryland, College Park, MD20742, USA
Elizabeth J. Paul
Department of Astrophysical Sciences, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ08544, USA
William Dorland
University of Maryland, College Park, MD20742, USA
Email address for correspondence:


Coil complexity is a critical consideration in stellarator design. The traditional two-step optimization approach, in which the plasma boundary is optimized for physics properties and the coils are subsequently optimized to be consistent with this boundary, can result in plasma shapes which cannot be produced with sufficiently simple coils. To address this challenge, we propose a method to incorporate considerations of coil complexity in the optimization of the plasma boundary. Coil complexity metrics are computed from the current potential solution obtained with the REGCOIL code (Landreman, Nucl. Fusion, vol. 57, 2017, 046003). While such metrics have previously been included in derivative-free fixed-boundary optimization (Drevlak et al., Nucl. Fusion, vol. 59, 2018, 016010), we compute the local sensitivity of these metrics with respect to perturbations of the plasma boundary using the shape gradient (Landreman & Paul, Nucl. Fusion, vol. 58, 2018, 076023). We extend REGCOIL to compute derivatives of these metrics with respect to parameters describing the plasma boundary. In keeping with previous research on winding surface optimization (Paul et al., Nucl. Fusion, vol. 58, 2018, 076015), the shape derivatives are computed with a discrete adjoint method. In contrast with the previous work, derivatives are computed with respect to the plasma surface parameters rather than the winding surface parameters. To further reduce the resolution required to compute the shape gradient, we present a more efficient representation of the plasma surface which uses a single Fourier series to describe the radial distance from a coordinate axis and a spectrally condensed poloidal angle. This representation is advantageous over the standard cylindrical representation used in the VMEC code (Hirshman & Whitson, Phys. Fluids, vol. 26, 1983, pp. 3553–3568), as it provides a uniquely defined poloidal angle, eliminating a null space in the optimization of the plasma surface. In comparison with previous spectral condensation methods (Hirshman & Breslau, Phys. Plasmas, vol. 5, 1998, p. 2664), the modified poloidal angle is obtained algebraically rather than through the solution of a nonlinear optimization problem. The resulting shape gradient highlights features of the plasma boundary that are consistent with simple coils and can be used to couple coil and fixed-boundary optimization.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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