A team of scientists from the University of Strathclyde have created the brightest gamma ray beam ever, which is more than a thousand billion times brilliant than the Sun and could help open up new possibilities for medicine potentially revolutionizing cancer detection and treatment.
The scientists found that ultra-short duration laser pulses can interact with ionized gas to give off beams that are so intense that they can pass through 20 cm of lead and would take 1.5 m of concrete to be completely absorbed, according to a university release
The research has been published in the journal Nature Physics.
Experts have said the ray could have several uses in areas which include medical imaging, radiotherapy and radioisotope production for PET (positron emission tomography) scanning as the findings may lead to the creation of scanners that provide doctors with a clearer picture of cancerous tumours deep within the body.
It has also been said that the findings could also be useful in monitoring the integrity of stored nuclear waste or be able to target treatment more effectively by delivering a gamma-ray beam to blast tumours.
Also as , the laser pulses only last a quadrillionth of a second, they are short enough to capture the response of a nucleus to stimuli, and could be used in lab-based study of the nucleus.
The release also pointed out that the device used in the research is in fact smaller and less costly than more conventional sources of gamma rays.
The experiments were carried out on the Gemini laser in the Central Laser Facility at the Science and Technology Facilities Council's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory and the University of Glasgow and the Institution Superior T'cnico in Lisbon also participated in the study.
"This is a great breakthrough, which could make the probing of very dense matter easier and more extensive, and so allow us to monitor nuclear fusion capsules imploding.
"To prove this we have imaged very thin wires - 25 microns thick - with gamma rays and produced very clear images using a new method called phase-contrast imaging," Professor Dino Jaroszynski of Strathclyde, who led the research, said
"It could also act as a powerful tool in medicine for cancer therapy and there is nothing else to match the duration of the gamma ray pulses, which is also why it is so bright.
"In nature, if you accelerate charged particles, such as electrons, they radiate. We trapped particles in a cavity of ions trailing an intense laser pulse and accelerated these to high energies," he also added.
"The accelerator we use is a new type called a laser-plasma wakefield accelerator which uses high power lasers and ionised gas to accelerate charged particles to very high energies - thus shrinking a conventional accelerator, which is 100m long, to one which fits in the palm of your hand.
The peak brilliance of the gamma rays was measured to be greater than 1023 photons per second, per square milliradian, per square millimetre, per 0.1 per cent bandwidth.