Particle accelerators, abbreviated to PA, in the Galactic Union accelerate subatomic particles in an electromagnetic field chamber until they generate a massive charge. The charge is released and aimed via manipulation of the containment field and focused through a magnetic constrictor (or barrel).
Since they strike at lightspeed, they act similar to a laser. Hence, they cannot be dodged and potentially deliver massive amounts of damage. They can also be used from orbit, though this is illegal in the Galactic Union.
They are too large and complex to mount in turrets and are usually spinal-mounted on smaller ships. Occasionally, the are mounted on barbettes mounted like 'outriggers' built into the side of the ship's nose. They are usually bay mounted on larger ships. Thus they can only fire on specific facings, limiting their ability to bear on multiple targets.
They are also extremely expensive to produce and field, meaning they are common only on battle cruiser and larger ships. They are common on battleships.
Their used at shortly shorter range than lasers, and require more time to charge as their power requirements are huge. Like a laser, a PA rating is expressed in output wattage. Unlike a laser, the require between two to three times that output in order to fire. So a 1-terawatt PA can take 2-3 terawatts to fire. Another difference is the ability to charge a PA and hold the charge for for several minutes, though repeated use of this function degrades the charge containment system.
As PAs are internally mounted, they are more robust than lasers. They are usually hardened against EMP because a loss of containment can be hard on the crew and associated systems. That said, a hit on the system can be disastrous for said crew and ship, especially if the PA was charged. Blow-out plates and EM shielding is usually used for this reason.