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In an unassuming laboratory on the outskirts of Edinburgh, scientists attempt to mimic black holes

Scientists are to mimic black holes in a laboratory as part of a £2.35m project looking at how matter and energy interact.

A team at Heriot-Watt University on the outskirts of Edinburgh will produce laser pulses whose energy is measured in trillions of watts.

They will be used to simulate conditions found around a black hole – a place where gravity is so strong that light cannot escape and the normal laws of physics break down.

Daniele Faccio, the lead scientist, said: "What we are creating is the same space-time structure which characterises a black hole. But we' are doing this with a light pulse, so we don't actually have the mass which is associated with black holes.

"Gravitational black holes are generated by a collapsing star. We don't actually have this collapsing star, so there's no danger of being sucked into the black holes we are generating here."

The university has been awarded a €3m (£2.35m) grant by the European Research Council to investigate new areas of quantum physics. Another study will look at how single photons and electrons interact with each other in computer chips.