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By Professor Keith Burnett FRS, Professor Dino Jaroszynski and Dr Simon Hooker

 The strong electromagnetic fields generated when intense laser pulses interact with plasma could form the basis of a new generation of extremely compact particle accelerators. Laser-driven plasma accelerators are potentially versatile sources of energetic particle beams and coherent radiation ranging from terahertz frequencies to x-rays. Their unique properties are likely to find widespread application in the biological and physical sciences.