India to soon join global high-end scientific club


Schematic view of the Underground neutrino lab under a mountain

With the Union Cabinet clearing the Neutrino Observatory, India hopes to join the global high-end scientific club. Prof Naba K Mondal, Project Director of the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) and the Inter Institutional Centre for High Energy Physics said it would open up avenues for experiments in high energy physics.

The Cabinet Committee on Security had cleared the project on December 26, 2014, with an investment of Rs 1,500 crore. It will be funded jointly by the Department of Science and Technology and Atomic Energy, while Tamil Nadu government will help with the infrastructure, said Prof Mondal, on the sidelines of the ongoing Indian Science Congress in Mumbai.

Prof Mondal said India will also seek international participation in the project, so that it turns out to be an international hub for high-end research like the CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) in Geneva. He however, said, Indian participation will continue in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project.

We have not (taken up) this kind of high-end physics project after the Kolar Gold Field project was closed down. So, first, we have to convince the global community that we are serious,” he said. “Now the formal approval for the project has come. We really want to open up the space for the international community, to come and participate in the experiments or even propose new experiments. The experiment that we are conducting is only the first experiment. There can be other experiments, like on dark matter. So, we would like to invite the international community to come here and join us and participate, so that this centre becomes a global hub for such experiments.”

The underground project, which will come up near Pottipuram village in Theni district on the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border will comprise a complex of caverns – the main cavern, which will house the current detector, will be 130 metres long, 26 metres wide and 30 metres high. There will be two smaller caverns to be used for setting up experiments relating to the neutrino double detector and dark matters, said Prof Mondal. The complex will be approached through a 2-km-long tunnel.

The Inter Institutional Centre for High Energy Physics will come up in Madurai, about 110 kilometers from the Observatory. In 2012, senior CPI (M) leader V S Achuthandan had flayed then UPA government for facilitating a “US agenda” through the Neutrino observatory. He, however, was misled and the project authorities were able to convince him about it, said Prof Mondal. He said any apprehensions about the projects’ impact on habitation in and around the village were unfounded.

“The Neutrino that we are going to detect is there anyway. We will only detect and study its properties. Light from the Sun, stars and galaxies is always there. When you use a telescope, you (can) detect it. Here too, we are only putting the detector underground,” he said. “We have to put it underground, because on the surface, there are other interactions, which will completely submerge the Neutrino event. That’s why we have to go deep underground, where other particles get absorbed and we can measure the Neutrino.”


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