The rotational transform (or field line pitch) ι/2π is defined as the number of poloidal transits per single toroidal transit of a field line on a toroidal flux surface. The definition can be relaxed somewhat to include field lines moving in a spatial volume between two nested toroidal surfaces (e.g., a stochastic field region).
Assuming the existence of toroidally nested magnetic flux surfaces, the rotational transform on such a surface may also be defined as 
where ψ is the poloidal magnetic flux, and Φ the toroidal magnetic flux.
In tokamak research, the quantity q = 2π/ι is preferred (called the "safety factor"). In a circular tokamak, the equations of a field line on the flux surface are, approximately: 
where and θ are the toroidal and poloidal angles, respectively. Thus can be approximated by
Where the poloidal magnetic field is mostly produced by a toroidal plasma current. The principal significance of the safety factor q is that if at the last closed flux surface (the edge), the plasma is magnetohydrodynamically unstable.
In tokamaks with a divertor, q approaches infinity at the separatrix, so it is more useful to consider q just inside the separatrix. It is customary to use q at the 95% flux surface (the flux surface that encloses 95% of the poloidal flux), q95.
- ↑ A.H. Boozer, Physics of magnetically confined plasmas, Rev. Mod. Phys. 76 (2004) 1071
- ↑ K. Miyamoto, Plasma Physics and Controlled Nuclear Fusion, Springer-Verlag (2005) ISBN 3540242171
- ↑ Wesson J 1997 Tokamaks 2nd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press) p280 ISBN 0198509227