We propose to use of a small iron core transformer to start up the plasma current in a spherical tokamak (ST) reactor without central solenoid (CS). Taking advantage of the high aspect ratio of the STOR-M iron core tokamak, we have demonstrated that the plasma current up to 10-15 kA can be started up using the outer Ohmic heating (OH) coils without CS, and that the plasma current can be maintained further by increasing the outer OH coil current during iron core saturation phase. When the magnetizing current reaches 1.2 kA and the iron core becomes saturated, the third capacitor bank connected to the outer OH coils is discharged to maintain the plasma current. The plasma current is slightly increased and maintained for additional 5 ms as expected from numerical calculations. Core saturation has been clearly observed on the hysteresis curve. This is the first experimental demonstration of the feasibility of slow transition from the iron core to air core transformer phase without CS. The results implies that a plasma current can be initiated by a small iron core and could be ramped up by additional heating and vertical field after iron core saturation in future STs without CS.
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