Science

All you want to know about India Neutrino Observatory project

BL Internet Desk | Updated on April 17, 2018 Published on April 16, 2018
Schematic view of the proposed India-based Neutrino Observatory underground lab

Schematic view of the proposed India-based Neutrino Observatory underground lab   -  INO website

In December 2017, the Cabinet Committee on Security cleared the India-based Neutrino Observatory project, to be built at an investment of Rs 1,500 crore.  It is the latest in a series of neutrino detectors, neutrino factories and experiments being set up worldwide to promote research in particle physics.

Where is the India neutrino observatory being planned?

At Pottipuram village, in Theni district, near the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. 

What does it entail?

It is an underground project and will comprise a complex of caverns. The main cavern, which will house the huge neutrino detector [50-kilo tonne magnetised iron calorimeter], will be 130 m long, 26 m wide, and 30 m high.   Two smaller caverns will be used for setting up experiments for neutrino double detector and dark matter. Approach to this complex will be by a 2-km-long tunnel.

What is a neutrino?

Neutrinos are the smallest particles that form the universe.

Who else has a neutrino facility?

Underground: SNO, Canada, Kamioka in Japan and Gran Sasso, Italy.

Underwater:  Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica.  Antares - under Mediterranean sea off coast of Toulon, France.

Who is in-charge of the project?

The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is the nodal institution. The observatory is to be built jointly with the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Science and Technology. 

What's special about locating the INO in the South?

A project report says most of the neutrino detectors are at latitudes over 35 deg. It is possible to push such a detector down to almost 8 deg latitude in South India, within proximity to the Equator. This permits neutrino astronomy searches covering the whole celestial sky and study of solar neutrinos passing through the Earth’s core.

Why are the locals opposing it?

Locals fear that the excavation and blasts needed to bore the tunnel in the mountains will endanger the biodiversity of the Western Ghats.   Some of the concerns voiced range from radiation, structural damage to the mountain to emission of hazardous chemicals.

What do scientists say?

Scientists have junked all these claims as baseless and unfounded.

What next?

In March, the Tamil Nadu government has formed a committee to seek public opinion on the Observatory. The State government will take a decision based on the panel report. Meanwhile, there is talk of the project being moved to Andhra Pradesh, which is rolling out the red carpet for new projects.

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Did you know?

The Kolar Gold Field mines housed one of the earliest laboratories to study and detect neutrinos. It was located at a depth of 2,000 m. The first atmospheric neutrinos were detected here in 1965. The laboratory was shut following the closure of the mines.

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Schematic view of the underground neutrino lab under a mountain

 

 

Published on April 16, 2018
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