Work at neutrino observatory to start soon

Schematic of a detector at the observatory. Photo: INO website

The work at the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) in Tamil Nadu - which saw agitations - is going to start soon.

The INO project in Theni district is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 m for non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics research in India.

The site is Bodi West Hills on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala boundary.

The Centre had sanctioned Rs 1,583 crore for the ambitious project.

"As you know there were litigations...all the litigations have been taken care of. The work will start soon," Arun Srivastava, secretary to Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) said at the Vigyan Samagam exhibition at the Nehru Science Centre,  Mumbai.

The project includes  - construction of an underground laboratory and associated surface facilities at Pottipuram in Bodi West Hills, construction of a Iron Calorimeter (ICAL) detector for studying neutrinos, consisting of 50000 tons of magnetized iron plates arranged in stacks with gaps in between where Resistive Plate Chambers (RPCs) would be inserted as active detectors, the total number of 2m X 2m RPCs being around 29000, and  setting up of National Centre for High Energy Physics at Madurai, for the operation and maintenance of the underground laboratory, human resource development and detector R&D along with its applications.

The underground laboratory, consisting of a large cavern of size 132m X 26m X 20m and several smaller caverns, will be accessed by a 2100 m long and 7.5 m wide tunnel.

The initial goal of INO is to study neutrinos. Neutrinos are fundamental particles belonging to the lepton family.

They come in three flavours, one associated with electrons and the others with their heavier cousins the muon and the Tau. According to the standard model of particle physics, they are massless.

However recent experiments indicate that these charge-neutral fundamental particles have a finite but small mass which is unknown.

They oscillate between flavours as they propagate.

Determination of neutrino masses and mixing parameters is one of the most important open problems in physics today.

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