Rs 1,500-crore research lab in Tamil Nadu gets Centre go-ahead

  • Snehal Rebello, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jan 05, 2015 22:24 IST

Eight years after it was initiated, the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO), the country’s largest research facility, has been approved by the Indian government.

The underground laboratory, to be built at an estimated cost of Rs1,500 crore, will be set up near Pottipuram village in Bodi West Hills of Theni district, Tamil Nadu, to study atmospheric neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in the earth’s atmosphere. The neutrinos are important to understand the evolution of the universe, energy production mechanisms in the Sun and other stars.

Coordinated by the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), the INO is a collaborative project with 21 research institutes, universities and the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs). “Work on building the INO will start in six months. One-third of the detectors will start operating in 2020 and full-fledged experiments will start in 2022,” said professor Naba Mondal, project coordinator.

To be built 1,300 metres below ground, INO is pegged as a ‘mega project’ under the 11th Five Year Plan with an allocation of Rs 1,500 crore.

“Combining high-end training in the best of experimental physics with the best of research, INO will be the agent of transforming physics of this kind in India and will make a global impact. The outcome of the investment will be extraordinary and long term,” said professor K Vijayraghavan, secretary of department of science and technology.

An Inter-Institutional Centre for High Energy Physics (IICHEP) will also be established in Madurai, which is about 110kms from the proposed INO site, for operationalising the underground laboratory.

The Centre also approved the construction of a 50-kton magnetised Iron Calorimeter detector (ICAL) to study the properties of neutrinos and to address the issue of neutrino mass hierarchy.

“An important outcome of the project will be to train young researchers in large-scale experimental science, including detector instrumentation technology, an area which needs strong development in the country. As the host institute for the multi-institutional INO project, TIFR has played a nurturing role and looks forward to rapid developments which will allow new science to be generated,” said professor Mustansir Barma, former director, TIFR and chairman, INO Scientific Management Board.

A world-class laboratory

The India-based Neutrino Observatory to be located at Bodhi West Hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu will be the country’s largest-ever facility for basic science research.

To be built 1,300 metres below ground, INO is pegged as a ‘mega project’ under the 11th Five Year Plan

Slated to be functional by 2022, the Neutrino Factory is similar to the Large Hadron Collider set up by the Geneva-based European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN), which is also an international collaboration, recreating the Big Bang that created the universe.

A total of 21 research institutes in the country are collaborating on the project.

The project will train students pursuing science and engineering to engage in large-scale particle physics and astrophysics experiments across the globe.

The project will have international collaborations where physicists will participate in the observatory operations as well as study the data produced.

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