Huge magnetic detector to be positioned amid rock mass

Site work for the Rs.1,350-crore India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project, which is coming up along the West Bodi Hills in Theni district, is set to begin in February.

The ambitious underground experimental laboratory, being set up with multi-institute collaboration, has obtained all clearances and got possession of the land from State Government, both for the observatory in Pottipuram village and the project headquarters/research and development centre in Madurai. Expected to be completed in four to five years, the INO will house a massive 50,000-tonne magnetic detector to study elusive neutrinos, which are an interesting area in particle physics.

While the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Science and Technology are the principal funding institutions, the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, will be the nodal institute.

Naba K.Mondal, Chief Spokesperson of INO Project and senior scientist at TIFR, told The Hindu over phone on Friday that the work for developing engineering module for the giant magnet had begun at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.

“The assembling part of that magnet, which detects the neutrinos in the underground observatory, will be done in Madurai where a big laboratory will be established along with the INO headquarters. We took possession of the land given to us near Madurai Kamaraj University,” he said.

Funds had been given to the State Government to commence the preliminary work such as fencing of the site, road works for the Pottipuram laboratory site and laying water pipelines in that area.

Also, for the headquarters/laboratory in Madurai, civil works were expected to start once the district administration had handed over the land.

“My team and I will visit Madurai and the INO site in Theni district during February to expedite the process. Madurai will be a key place for this observatory project since the important part of assembling the multi-tonne magnet/detector will be done there,” the Chief Spokesperson said.

A total of 26 research institutions and universities are collaborators of the INO project. At the observatory, a huge magnetic detector will be positioned amidst a rock mass to undertake neutrino experiments.

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