Particle Cannons are the main ship-to-ship weapons used by warships of the Pentagon Protectorate. This article contains information about the Protectorate version of particle cannons, different versions may be in use by other factions.
First main weapons in use by the Protectorate navy were heavy lasers, however as technology advanced it became clear lasers were not powerful enough to combat more advanced ship designs. Works began on a particle beam weapon, similar in function to lasers but using stronger particles to deal more damage. Those designs shown to be infeasible as the destroyed armor formed thick clouds blocking the beam, ammunition and extreme energy requirements proved to be a problem too.
The design was reworked into a different principle - instead of a continuous beam, the weapon was made to shoot a single much denser blast of particles. This solved all issues of the previous weapon; the clouds form long after the whole blast hits the target, ammunition can be highly compressed and capacitors were used to combat the short period of energy need.
The ammunition storage is a tank filled with highly compressed gas. When firing, some of this gas is drawn into a division chamber where it is expanded so much it becomes plasma and divides into electrons and cations. This allows free electrons to be attracted into one particle cannon and the cations into another.
Cations are massive positively charged particles. They are heavy enough to knock of molecules of armor of the target, making them in fact kinetic weapons. The charge they deliver is not significant but enough to destroy any electronics in the immediate vicinity of the impact.
Electrons are many thousand times smaller and lighter than cations, and as such they aren't heat the target on impact much like lasers do. However, many more electrons can be fired in a single blast. This makes their electric charge much more significant - if a conductive material is hit, a strong EMP effect is transferred to the target, enough to destroy or disable electronics over a wide area. Insulating materials additionally heat up through electrical resistance, making the electron blast highly effective against popular heat-resistant materials like ceramics.
However, both particle blasts become less focused as they travel due to the particles repelling each other, eventually dissipating into a harmless cloud. Electron blasts fall to this much quicker due to the lesser mass of the electrons, but even cation blasts fall apart. This limits range of the weapon and forces Protectorate ships to close in to their enemy to be able to use their full firepower.