What is the goal of INO?

The India-based Neutrino Obesrvatory (INO) is a mega-science project to study particles called neutrinos. Neutrinos are elementary particles naturally produced in the Sun, stars and in the Atmosphere. Neutrinos were initially thought to be massless particle but recent experiments have proved otherwise through the observation of the neutrino oscillation phenomenon.

The existence of non-zero neutrino masses has profound implications on fields as varied as nuclear physics, geophysics, astrophysics and cosmology apart from being of fundamental interest to particle physics. The discovery of neutrino mass and oscillation is but a first step and there are several questions that may require different experiments spanning many decades to be resolved. We still do not know the scale of neutrino mass and not even sure if the neutrino is its own antiparticle or not. The experimental field of neutrino physics is now moving into a phase where decisive and high precision experiments are needed. It was in this context that an initiative began to take shape a few years ago leading to the idea of the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO).

INO plans to build a world class research facility for students to conduct experiments in the field of neutrino physics. Neutrinos are very hard to detect and therefore neutrino detectors have to be shielded from other particles which are naturally produced in the Atmosphere. The experimental facility will be placed inside a mountain at Theni near Madurai in South India. The rock burden of over 1 km on all the directions shields the detector from other cosmic rays. Two caverns, one to house the detector and another to house the control systems will be built inside the mountain. A 2km long tunnel will connect these caverns to the portal outside the mountain.

The INO project will also host other neutrino experiments like the Neutrino-less double beta decay (NDBD). NDBD experiments will reveal the nature of neutrinos (Majarona or Dirac). This experiment will be placed in the control room cavern.

Outreach and Awareness

As part of its responsibility toward the society, the INO team regularly organizes awareness meetings and outreach programs. Students from schools and colleges are invited to the labs at TIFR and are introduced to concepts in detecting high energy particles. Outreach programs to people near the site are conducted with the help of the district and village administrative bodies.