UPSC Science and Technology Topic: India-based Neutrino Observatory Frontier IAS Current Affairs
Baljit Dhaka
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UPSC Science and Technology Topic: India-based Neutrino Observatory Frontier IAS Current Affairs

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UPSC Science & Technology Topic: India-based Neutrino Observatory Frontier IAS Current Affairs 

What is India-based Neutrino Observatory?

  • The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project is a multi-institutional effort aimed at building a world-class underground laboratory for Non-accelerator based high energy and nuclear physics research in India.
  • The Tata Institute of Fundamental Research is the nodal institution.
  • It is jointly funded by the Dept. of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Dept. of Science and Technology (DST) and it will cost 1584 crore.


Which site has been chosen and why?

  • Reasons for choosing Pottipuram of Theni district of Tamil Nadu are:
  1. Low rainfall (drier climates facilitate efficient working of detectors).
  2. Since the laboratory cavern will be deep underground, low seismicity (it is in seismic zone II) and stable dense rocks are essential.
  3. Proximity to the Equator permits neutrino astronomy searches covering the whole celestial sky and study of solar neutrinos passing through the Earth’s core.

What is the main objective behind setting up of INO?

  • INO's primary goal is to study the properties and interactions of particles called neutrinos.
  • This project is anticipated to provide a precise measurement of neutrino mixing parameters.
  • While many experiments have studied neutrinos from the Sun and other stars, INO will study atmospheric neutrinos that are naturally produced by the interaction of cosmic rays in Earth's own atmosphere.

What are neutrinos and why study them?

  • Neutrinos are fundamental particles that have no electrical charge and, according to the standard model of particle physics, are massless.
  • However, recent experiments indicate that they have a finite but small mass which is unknown. Determination of their mass and mixing parameters is one of the most important open problems in physics today.

What are other important facts about INO?

  • One of the earliest neutrino laboratories underground in the world was located at the Kolar Gold Field (KGF) mines in India.
  • The main magnetized iron calorimeter (ICAL) experiment will include the world's largest magnet.
  • It will be located 1200m underground. Neutrino detectors are built underground so that background due to naturally occurring cosmic radiation can be reduced.

Why has this project faced opposition?

  • Locals fear that the excavation and blasts needed to bore the tunnel in the mountains will endanger the biodiversity of the Western Ghats.
  • Then there are fears of harmful radiations and chemicals being generated from the experiment, which may cause diseases and other health hazards.

So, are these concerns legitimate?

  • All these concerns are unfounded.  Controlled blasting will be adopted in the initial reaches to dampen noise and vibrations.
  • Also, the area chosen for the site has sparse vegetation with very little wildlife, and no tree cutting is required. Besides, there will be no displacement of people, with the closest village being more than 2 km away.
  • There will be no radioactivity or toxicity resulting from the laboratory.

How will the scientific community benefit from INO?

  • INO will have an impact on the emerging high energy physics scenario in the country.
  • People trained at INO will have the expertise to contribute to other high energy and nuclear physics projects around the world.
  • Over the long term, INO is expected to develop into a world-class underground science laboratory straddling many fields like physics, biology, geology, and allied engineering fields.

What will be the benefits to locals from this project?

  • The construction contract will specify that local labor should be used.
  • Gainful employment will be there for some people by way of sourcing of services and daily needs for the facility.
  • A major benefit will be for schools and colleges in the region as the students can benefit from the outreach activities as well as doing projects at the lab.