Kamaraj IAS Academy | Neutrinos
  • November 7, 2018, 4:34 pm

Neutrino ? but why ?


To understand neutrino and its significance , first we must know that there are four Fundamental forces in the known universe; Gravitational force, Electromagnetic ,strong and weak nuclear forces. The understanding of how these forces originate, evolve and works will tell us the answers of big questions such as

how life began ?

how gravity works ?

how universe works ?

how matter works ?

how it forms ?

where mass comes from? and so on.


Thus to understand the origin and nature of existence, physicists and scientists around the globe study neutrino.


We all know the famous Big Bang theory which explains the most possible and most accurate version of the origin of universe. This Big bang produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter. When matter and antimatter annihilated, some tiny asymmetry in the early universe allowed matter to dominate antimatter, yes a single atom of matter survived and resulted in producing the universe we know today, which is made entirely of matter. Were neutrinos involved in the asymmetry is the most sought question?


Neutrinos play a role in many fundamental aspects of our lives; they are produced in nuclear fusion processes that power the sun and stars, they are produced in radioactive decays that provide a source of heat inside our planet, and they are produced in nuclear reactors.  Neutrinos are believed to be a vital ingredient in a star’s supernova process. These explosions spread heavy elements throughout space, elements that are needed to create the universe we live in. Neutrinos also provide a tool to study the structure of nucleons (protons and neutrinos), to learn how matter evolved from simple particles into more complex composites of particles, creating everything around us, including us, the life.


What are Neutrinos ?


A neutrino is a subatomic particle that is very similar to an electron, but has no electrical charge and a very small mass, which might even be zero. Neutrinos are one of the most abundant particles in the universe. Because they have very little interaction with matter, they are incredibly difficult to detect. A neutrino is a fermion (an elementary particle) that interacts only via the weak subatomic force and gravity. The neutrino is so named because it is electrically neutral and because its rest mass is so small that it was long thought to be zero. About 100 trillion neutrinos pass through your body every second without interacting with any of the particles in your body. You never notice them. The combination of that ghostly presence and the important role neutrinos play in the universe captivates physicists.


So basically we are searching for answers in massless, chargeless particles which are near to nothing. Finding these wasps of nothing helps us understand the most fundamental questions and everything.






Curious Case of India:




The Neutrino project involving an investment of more than Rs. 15000 million was sanctioned by Government of India under the XIth plan, and the scientists initially hoped to start construction of the facility by 2011. Around 25 research institutions are associated with the project with Tata Institute of Fundamental Research acting as a nodal institution. The proposed massive neutrino detector will be built in a cavern set in massive charnockite rock ( a group of igneous rocks found in South India with those in TamilNadu known to be the hardest and oldest). For a good neutrino detection facility, a vertical cover of at least 1000 m is required, so that the observed neutrino events are not contaminated by unwanted particles in the surface that will be absorbed by the overburden. India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) will be a major underground experimental facility to study the elusive and nearly massless fundamental particles of nature called neutrinos.If ,When ,completed, the main experiment will include the world's largest magnet, four times larger than the 12,500-tonne magnet in the detector at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland


What’s the problem?


After initially denying permission to the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) to locate the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) at Singara in Nilgiris District in TamilNadu, Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), Government of India accorded both environmental and forest clearance for locating the project in the Bodi West Hills (BWH) in Theni District in TamilNadu. However, Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal has recently suspended the environmental clearance granted to the neutrino observatory by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF), due to some objections such as the proposed location being just about 4.9 kilometers from the Mathikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district of Kerala. The Southern Bench of National Green Tribunal has asked the project promoters to submit a fresh application with more details. The project has also been objected by local people on safety consideration. The project is suffering prolonged delay.


Need for India?


The Super Kamiokande neutrino observatory in Japan, Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada, Gran Sasso Lab in Italy, and IceCube Neutrino Observatory in the South Pole are some of the existing neutrino laboratories in the world. As far as India is concerned, this is a Mega Science Project that would enable India to join the group of elite countries that are conducting research on such advanced field, so that India will not be left behind in the global scientific pursuits. Obviously, the scientists are thrilled about this project, since it would place India in the league of advanced nations who carry out such research project, with China particularly considering such research project as thrust areas for long-term scientific pursuits. It is to be noted that china leads the race in quantum computing , quantum satellite communication which provides it an fastest and most secure communication and computation technology in the world. This was possible because of their research in particle physics and understanding of quantum realm for which neutrinos are everything.So not only a scientific pursuit but it is a strategic and economic pursuit for india.


The lack of awareness about the cutting edge particle physics ,even among the intellectuals of india has created an air of doubt about the INO project with doubts such as radiation,environmental hazard and so on . In reality ,it is a well sought and need of the hour project with technological safeguards. This appears to be a repeated problem in India that the government and the scientific community do not adequately communicate with the common men and local people in transparent style about the objectives of their activities and the risk factors, if any, that are involved. Lack of transparency and communication with the countrymen and local people is the real cause for delay and controversies in the case of several projects. Neutrino project is one more example of such approach of the scientific community and the government about the conceived plans for implementation. And this would be a project which would fast forward india in terms of positive growth in tech,strategic and social sector when compared to other nations in the world.