Indian Neutrino Observatory Project

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    In News 

    • Tamil Nadu has conveyed to the Supreme Court that it does not want the Indian Neutrino Observatory (INO) to be set up in a sensitive ecological zone in the Western Ghats.

    Indian Neutrino Observatory Project

    • About:
      • The setting up of an INO was approved by the Union cabinet for studying fundamental particles called the neutrinos.
      • The location of the Observatory would be in the Bodi Hills region of the Theni district in Tamil Nadu.
      •  It is the latest in a series of neutrino detectors, neutrino factories and experiments being set up worldwide to promote research in particle physics.
      • The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is the nodal institution. 
    • Features: 
      • It is an underground project and will comprise a complex of caverns
      • The main cavern, which will house the huge neutrino detector [50-kiloton 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 detectors and dark matter

    Image Courtesy: TH

    Major Issues 

    • The proposed project area links the Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala with Srivilliputhur Meghamalai Tiger Reserve. 
    • Quarrying and construction activities will upset wild animals which use the corridor for seasonal migrations.
    • The project in question falls exactly on the hill slopes of this part of the Western Ghats, which align within it a significant tiger corridor, namely the Mathikettan-Periyar tiger corridor.
    • The area is a significant watershed and catchment zone for the rivers Sambhal and Kottakudi.

    What are Neutrinos?

    • Protons, neutrons, and electrons are tiny particles that make up atoms. 
    • The neutrino is also a tiny elementary particle, but it is not part of the atom. Such particles are also found to exist in nature. 
    • Neutrino has a very tiny mass, no electric charge and spin half. It interacts very weakly with other matter particles. 
    • Neutrinos come from the sun (solar neutrinos) and other stars, cosmic rays that come from beyond the solar system, and from the Big Bang from which our Universe originated. They can also be produced in the lab.

    Image Courtesy: TOI

    Why should the laboratory be situated underground?

    • Neutrinos are difficult to detect in a laboratory because of their extremely weak interaction with matter.
    • The background from cosmic rays (which interact much more readily than neutrinos) and natural radioactivity will make it almost impossible to detect them on the surface of the Earth. This is the reason most neutrino observatories are located deep inside the Earth’s surface.
    • The overburden provided by the Earth matter is transparent to neutrinos whereas most background from cosmic rays is substantially reduced depending on the depth at which the detector is located.

    Source: DTE