Staff Reporter

MADURAI: The world's biggest electro-magnet could come up at the proposed Rs.900-crore India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Project in Theni district, if the project is implemented expeditiously, according to G. Rajasekaran, Adjunct Professor, Institute of Mathematical Sciences, Chennai,

The institute, which is involved in research of neutrinos, is working in site-related activities of the INO.

Addressing a National Science Mela on ‘Science and philosophy of biodiversity' organised at Arul Anandar College in Karumathur, near here, on Wednesday, he said that the 50,000-tonne magnetic detector would be constructed inside a cavern that would be located in a one to three-km tunnel dug from the peak of the hill. The proposed project could also become the first to detect both neutrinos and anti-neutrinos separately.

Setback in 1990s

A race to carry out scientific research in neutrinos was under way in advanced countries such as the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, South Korea, and China. India was the first to detect cosmic ray-produced neutrinos in the Kolar Gold Field mines in 1965. However, a setback came when the mines were shutdown in 1990s, he said.

Speaking to journalists, N.S. Sreenivasan, Project Leader (Working Group), INO, said that the project required 1,000 metres of hard rock to detect neutrinos and other cosmic ray-produced particles. This kind of rock with the required stability could be found only in Tamil Nadu, he added.

The detector would be a passive one with no moving parts and would also be one of the most economical one of its kind. Once all approvals were obtained, the construction would take around three years. After this, the first 16 kilo-tonne module, a small detector, would be installed, tested and commissioned.

Once these two stages were completed, the remaining components would also be installed in two to three years, he said.

Mr. Sreenivasan also categorically denied reports regarding any confiscation of land, displacement of people or radiation hazard.

Giving a break-up of the Rs.900-crore project cost, Vivek M. Datar, Scientific Officer, Nuclear Physics Division, Bhaba Atomic Research Centre (BARC), said that Rs.300 crore would go towards purchasing steel, Rs.200 crore for civil work and the rest for detection equipment, laboratory infrastructure and recruiting around 100 personnel.

J. Daniel Chellappa, Head, Technical Coordination and Public Awareness Section, Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research, said that the INO was an important project that would enable the research of this nature.

B.S. Acharya, Professor, Department of High Energy Physics, TIFR, said that neutrinos were very elusive in nature and they had to be filtered from other particles. It was for this purpose that the research was being done in a tunnel, he added.

T. Chinnaraj Joseph Jayakumar, Principal, American College, where a local cell for INO had been established, said that the college students would undertake an independent study to ascertain the project's impact on environment. G. Pushparaj, Principal, M. Arockiasamy Xavier, secretary, spoke.