UPSC Exam Preparation: Topic of the Day – India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO)
Approval has been granted by the Union cabinet for setting up of a Neutrino Observatory for studying fundamental particles called the neutrinos. The location of the Observatory would be in the Bodi West Hills region of Theni district, about 110 kilometres west of Madurai in Tamil Nadu.
- INO involves the construction of an underground laboratory. The project location was initially decided to be located in the Nilgiris but later, on grounds that it was too close to tiger habitat, was moved to a cavern under a rocky mountain in the Bodi West Hills.
- It involves Inter-Institutional Centre for High Energy Physics (IICHEP) and Iron Calorimeter Detector (ICAL).
- Approval has also been granted to construct a magnetized Iron Calorimeter in order to study the properties of the neutrino, specifically, the mass hierarchy in various types of neutrino. It will be the largest in the world weighing over 50,000 tonnes.
- Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Atomic Energy jointly support the project.
Neutrinos are electrically neutral, elementary weakly interacting subatomic particles with half-integer spin. They belong to the lepton family. Neutrinos were first proposed by Swiss scientist Wolfgang Pauli, are the second most widely occurring particle in the universe, only second to photons, the particle which makes up light. Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: neutrinos do not carry electric charge. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces which act on electrons.
- They are light.
- They have little mass or are nearly massless.
- They are no-charge particles that only interact with weak nuclear force.
- There are three types of neutrinos:
- “Electron neutrino” is associated with the electron
- “Muon neutrino”
- “Tau neutrino”
- In 2015, the Nobel prize in physics was awarded to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. Mcdonald for discovering neutrino oscillations demonstrating that neutrinos have mass.
- Neutrinos are the least harmful of all elementary particles, as they almost never react with solid bodies.
- The mass of a neutron is 1.67×10-27 kg while the mass of a neutrino is of the order of 1×10-37kg. Hence, a neutrino is about 17 billion times lighter than a neutron. The two are incomparable.
Importance of INO
- It will be the largest experimental facility to come up in the country. It will facilitate the development of cutting-edge technology and build sophisticated instruments.
- Neutrinos may have a role to play in nuclear non-proliferation through the remote monitoring of nuclear reactors.
- Understanding neutrinos could help in detection of oil and mineral deposits.
- They may open up a faster way to send data than the current ‘around the earth’ model, using towers, cables or satellites as they can pass through the Earth.
- Neutrinos are the information bearers of the universe — which are almost never lost in their path. Efforts in studying neutrinos at INO may help unravel the deepest mystery of the universe