Scottish scientists have created a magnificent gamma ray beam, which is more than a thousand billion times brilliant than the Sun, to revolutionize cancer detection and treatment.
A team led by scientists from the University of Strathclyde said the ray could be used in medical imaging, radiotherapy and radioisotope production, as well as monitoring the integrity of stored nuclear waste.
The researchers found that ultra-short-duration laser pulses could interact with ionised gas to give off beams that are so intense they can pass through 20cm of lead and would take 1.5 metres of concrete to be completely absorbed.
Experts say the discovery may lead to scanners that provide doctors with a clearer picture of cancerous tumours deep within the body.
They may also be able to target treatment more effectively by delivering a gamma-ray beam to blast tumours.
"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," the Scotsman quoted Professor Dino Jaroszyski, who led the physicists, as saying.
"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," he added.
The study has been published in the journal Nature Physics.