The India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project is an ambitious basic science project aimed at studying the properties and interactions of the elusive elementary particle called neutrino. The Government approved the INO project in January 2015. This included the construction of an underground laboratory at Bodi West Hills (BWH) in Theni district, Tamil Nadu, setting up the flagship Iron Calorimeter (ICAL) detector there and the Inter-Institutional Centre for High Energy Physics (IICHEP) in Madurai. IICHEP would be the nodal centre for Research & Development of the associated detector technology and would run the underground laboratory in Theni.
The key advantage of constructing a laboratory in a cavern in a mountain accessed by a 2km tunnel, with an all-round rock cover of about 1000m, is that it offers a low cosmic ray background environment (since the cosmic rays, and secondary particles produced in their interaction with the upper atmosphere, are filtered by the rock cover above the laboratory cavern). This is necessary for specialised experiments making measurements with neutrinos which interact very rarely with the detector material. In particular, ICAL will detect and measure atmospheric neutrinos to study the neutrino properties, including the mass ordering of the three tiny neutrino masses using matter enhanced neutrino oscillations. The ICAL detector can also be used to search for evidence of long-range interactions between neutrinos and matter, dark matter annihilation occurring in the sun, primordial magnetic monopoles and evidence for or against the anomalous events found by the proton decay detector in Kolar Gold Fields. Finally, the underground laboratory will also provide a conducive environment for other experiments. For example, a collaboration led by a TIFR group is working towards search for neutrinoless double beta decay in tin-124 using a cryogenic bolometer. Similarly, a collaboration led by SINP is planning to set up an experiment to search for Dark Matter using a cryogenic scintillator. The initial background studies have been initiated in a laboratory at -550m level in the Jaduguda mines.
In 2008 the INO graduate training programme affiliated to the Homi Bhabha National Institute, a deemed to be University, was started. Between 3-8 students are selected and undergo one year of coursework with equal emphasis on experimental projects. About 20 students have passed out and have generally got good post-doctoral positions in India and abroad and some have also got faculty positions in institutes and University Departments. Furthermore, many students from INO collaborating institutes and universities also work towards their Ph.D. based on INO research problems. Detector development at IICHEP is expected to provide well-trained human resources not only for INO but also for other experimental projects in India.
Extruded polycarbonate side spacers and spacer buttons for RPCs; 1m1m, 2m2m Glass Resistive Plate Chambers with resistive graphite coating; front-end electronics; in-house developed boards for Data Acquisition, Trigger Module and Time Calibration.
High-permeability low-carbon soft iron steel for ICAL; Layered Electro-Magnet (85 ton mini-ICAL module); induction heating based copper joint brazing technology; inductive proximity sensor based system for continuous gap measurement between two iron plate layers; magnetic measurements system with multiple search coil pickup loops (for magnetic flux) and arrays of Hall probes based measurements (for B-field strength in inter-plate gaps); closed loop chilled water system for cooling current carrying coils in mini-ICAL and associated DC power supply; RPC trolley (8m high) to place and remove 2m2m RPC from ICAL.
Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Aligarh
American College (AC), Madurai
Banaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), Mumbai
Central University of Karnataka (CUK), Gulbarga
Delhi University (DU), Delhi
Harish Chandra Research Institute (HRI), Allahabad
Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISERM), Mohali
Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), Mumbai
Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar (IITG), Gandhinagar
Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IITM), Chennai
Institute of Physics (IOP), Bhubaneswar
Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc), Chennai
Jammu University (JU), Jammu
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi
Lucknow University (LU), Lucknow
Panjab University (PU), Chandigarh
Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad
Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP), Kolkata
Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai
Tezpur University (TU), Tezpur
University of Calcutta (UCK), Kolkata
University of Calicut (UCC), Calicut
University of Hyderabad (UoH), Hyderabad
University of Kashmir (UK), Srinagar
University of Mysore (UM), Mysore
Utkal University (UU), Bhubaneswar
Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC), Kolkata
Tata Consulting Engineers, Mumbai (ICAL magnet DPR)
Tamil Nadu Electricity Board, Chennai (INO DPR)
Mitcon Consultancy & Engineering Services Ltd, Pune (MoEF&CC clearance)
Pro Designa Consultants, Madurai (Civil works approval for IICHEP, INO site civil construction)
Walchand Technology Group, Pune (Project Report for RPC manufacture)
St. Gobain (Sriperumbudur)
Cybernetic Instruments (Pune)
Alpha Pneumatics (Mumbai)
Shriram Automation (Mumbai)
Honeycomb International Inc. (Bengaluru)
Nexgen Plastics (Mumbai)
S. M. Enterprises (Pune)
Fibre Reinforced Industry Ltd (Pune)
Ashwin Plastics (Mumbai)
Studio CNC (Mumbai)
Steel Authority of India Ltd. (Bhilai)
Essar Steel (Hazira)
PCBPower Circuit Systems India Ltd (Gandhinagar)
Jalaram Industries (Mumbai)
P Chandru Machine Tools (Vellore)
Green & Green Engineering Solution (Coimbatore)
M/S Integrated systems Pvt. Ltd (Mumbai)
Autoelectrical & Mechanical works (Mumbai)
Bhilai Engineering Corporation (Bhilai)
Microtech Industries (Mumbai)
Entech industries (Banglore)
Ferrite India (Pune)
The proposed underground site for the INO lab is located in the Bodi West Hills region, about 2 km from the nearest village Pudukottai in Pottipuram Panchayat, Theni District of Tamil Nadu. The nearest major city is Madurai, about 110 km away. It is also the nearest airport and a major railway station. A cavern will be created to house the lab about 1200 metres deep below a mountain top. The cavern will be accessible by a 2100 m long and 7.5 m wide tunnel.
Presently, pre-project works for the INO mega project are underway. Among current notable achievements, a small-scale 80 ton ‘prototype’ ICAL detector has been developed indigenously and set up at the project’s facility in Vadapalanji near Madurai.
The underground INO lab will have a 50,000 ton Iron-Calorimeter (ICAL) Detector for detecting and studying neutrinos. The detector consists of magnetised iron plates arranged in stakes, with gaps in between the plates. Glass-based Resistive Plate Chambers (RPCs) will be inserted as inside these gaps to act as active detectors. Charged particles produced in the rare interactions of neutrinos with the iron would be detected in these detectors.
Neutrinos arise from various cosmic nuclear processes. They have almost zero mass and they travel nearly at the speed of light. Neutrinos can easily pass right through earth and other celestial bodies like the sun, and since they are neutral (no charge), they are not affected by electromagnetism. Thus, detecting neutrinos is difficult. The rock above the underground laboratory will serve as a filter to remove unwanted portion of cosmic rays, so that unambiguous and precise detection of neutrinos can be made
No. The main reason for locating the laboratory underground is to create an environment free of the radiation that abounds on the earth’s surface. This radiation is due to cosmic rays and natural radiation of the materials around us. Hence the experiment will neither produce any radioactivity nor can it function well where there is radiation.
The INO project is a mega science project that has several spin-off benefits. The initial goal of the INO is to study neutrinos using the ICAL detector, which is being developed entirely indigenously, along with several technologies associated with it. Over the years, this underground facility is expected to develop into a full-fledged underground science laboratory for other studies in physics, biology, geology, hydrology etc.
It is a mega-science project with an investment of about 1,538 crore, jointly funded by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
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