China is constructing an immense neutrino telescope known as Trident in the South China Sea. With a vast size spanning 7.5 cubic kilometers, Trident is designed to detect elusive “ghost particles” called neutrinos. This underwater telescope is expected to be 10,000 times more sensitive than existing instruments, enabling the study of these elusive particles in unprecedented detail.
GS II: International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- Detecting Ghost Particles
- Significance of Detecting Ghost Particles
- India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Mission
Atoms and Subatomic Particles:
- Initially, scientists believed that atoms were the smallest particles.
- Later discoveries revealed that atoms consist of subatomic components, including protons, electrons, and neutrons.
- Neutrinos are subatomic particles resembling electrons but possess negligible electric charge and minimal mass, potentially even zero.
- While previously considered massless, research has shown that neutrinos indeed possess a minute mass.
- Neutrinos are among the most abundant particles in the universe.
- They behave similarly to electrons in terms of nuclear forces.
- Neutrinos and electrons both participate in the weak nuclear force but not the strong nuclear force.
- Neutrinos are generated when atomic nuclei combine (as in the sun) or break apart (as in a nuclear reactor).
- These elusive particles are often referred to as “ghost particles” due to their weak charge and near-zero mass.
- Detecting neutrinos is exceptionally challenging as they only become visible when interacting with other particles.
- Their infrequent interactions with other particles make tracking them nearly impossible, earning them the nickname “ghost particles.”
Detecting Ghost Particles
- Rare Interactions: Ghost particles, or neutrinos, infrequently interact with other particles, although these interactions are not impossible.
- Interaction with Water: Occasionally, they interact with water molecules, and this is the basis for China’s underwater ghost molecule telescope.
- Observation: Scientists have managed to observe neutrinos in brief moments when these particles generate byproducts after traversing water or ice.
- Current Largest Telescope: Presently, the largest neutrino-detecting telescope is the “IceCube” telescope at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. It is located deep in the Antarctic and covers a sensor area of approximately 1 cubic kilometer.
Significance of Detecting Ghost Particles
- Unusual Behavior: Neutrinos, despite being highly abundant, exhibit behavior that challenges established principles of physics.
- Origins: The source of these particles remains unclear, although scientists speculate they might have played a role in the early universe shortly after the big bang.
- Scientific Mysteries: Understanding neutrinos could aid in solving various scientific enigmas, such as the origin of cosmic rays, which are known to contain neutrinos.
- Crucial for Universe Origins: There is evidence suggesting that neutrinos are crucial to unraveling the mysteries of our universe’s origins.
India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) Mission
- INO, initiated in 2015, is a significant particle physics research project in India.
- Aim: To investigate neutrinos in a deep cave located 1,200 meters underground.
- Neutrino detectors are typically situated underground to shield them from cosmic rays and other background radiation.
- The first phase involves the study of atmospheric neutrinos created by cosmic ray interactions in Earth’s atmosphere.
- Both neutrinos and antineutrinos of various flavors are generated.
- The project has long-term prospects, including future applications in solar and supernova research.
- INO is managed by seven primary and 13 participatory research institutes, with leadership from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) and the Indian Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IIMSc).
- Joint funding is provided by the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
- To minimize signal interference from other particles, the detector is situated within a mountain.
- Neutrinos can easily pass through the mountain and reach the detector while being filtered out by the surrounding rock.
-Source: The Hindu