India’s race to discover the secrets of ‘Neutrino’

Published: 19th September 2012 08:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th September 2012 08:43 AM   |  A+A-

Several countries, including India, are in the race to study the properties of the elusive particle ‘Neutrino’ that holds the key to fundamental questions on the origin of the universe and the energy production in stars, according to T R Govindarajan,  a Chennai-based physicist.

 He was reacting to the controversies set off by Opposition Leader V S Achuthanandan’s statement that the Kerala Government was in the dark about the underground laboratory that will be set up in a vast area under Theni and Idukki districts.

VS has   also claimed that  the project was part of  a secret agreement  between India and the US government and that it  posed a grave danger to the people and ecology.

There are three types of Neutrinos but physicists  have little knowledge about the properties of the particles, Govindarajan of the Chennai Mathematical Institute told ‘Express’.

The proposed India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project which will include 15 institutions around the world and the US-based NuMi OFF-Axis Neutrino Appearance experiment (NOvA) will study the properties of Neutrinos such as their mass.

 It would take about four years to complete the work to set up the lab inside the one-km-long, 20-metres-wide tunnel inside the rocky Bodi West hills near Theni. The real experiment would start only after that and it would take at least a quarter century to get any positive result, he said.

About 20 scientists would have to work in the lab  to collect the data. The area is ideal for the experiment as it is closer to the equator, he said.   Neutrinos can be used for tomography of the earth and human body.

They can tell us more about the dark energy and dark matter.  Neutrinos are produced in the sun and other stars  and they travel in straight lines in the speed of light. They come in different energy levels, starting with a few electron volts to trillions of eV.

The experiment will not cause any radiation to the people. The test is normally done in a protective place like inside a mountain or under the sea.  The project which  will have the world’s most massive magnet  is estimated to cost `1, 300 crore and has been cleared by the Ministry of Environment in the reserved forest.

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