Neutrino detector prototype operational in Madurai

The mini-Iron Calorimeter (mini-ICAL) detector, a prototype of the ICAL detector to come up at the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) at Pottipuram in Theni district, has been successfully set up at the Inter Institutional Centre for High Energy Physics’ (IICHEP) transit campus here.

Speaking to the media here on Monday, Vivek M. Datar, Project Director, INO, said that the detector, which was set up a couple of weeks back, was functioning as intended.

Though it was a prototype of the ICAL, this detector would only be detecting muons and not neutrinos, mainly owing to presence of cosmic ray background. “This is just kept inside a building. Since the actual ICAL will be kept beneath the hill, the hill will act as a natural filter of cosmic ray background,” T.V. Venkateswaran, Scientist F, Vigyan Prasar, said.

The mini-ICAL, which weighs about 80 tonnes, is roughly 600 times smaller than the 51 kilo tonnes ICAL to be set up at Pottipuram under the Ambarappar hills.

The mini-ICAL detector has 10 layers of glass Resistive Plate Chamber (RPC), which act as sensors and are stacked in between 11 iron plates of 4 metre x 4 metre size. The iron plates are magnetised by passing electricity through copper coils wound around.

In case of ICAL, the neutrino will interact with the magnetised iron to produce electrically-charged muon, which can be detected and studied.

Stating that the purpose of setting up the mini-ICAL was to identify and solve the challenges the team could face in setting up the actual ICAL detector, Mr. Venkateswaran said that it would also be used to educate students and to dispel unnecessary misconceptions and fears created about the project.

Pointing out that it would be an exciting learning experience for students, Stephen Inbanathan, Head, Department of Applied Science, The American College, and a collaborator in the INO project, said that educational institutions and research students interested in visiting the facility could contact the INO team.

The purpose is to identify and solve challenges the team could face in setting up the actual ICAL detector

T.V. Venkateswaran

Scientist

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