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"I went back to science fiction to try a few experiments …and my first experiment was a disaster…"
- Alfred Bester

De-atomizing Ray  
  Beam of energy causes matter to fly apart.  

Swiftly the cruisers, more than a thousand in number, approached completion, and now were being equipped with the weapon our scientists had devised for them, a deadly blue ray which had the power of stimulating atomic movement in every molecule of matter it touched to such a point that whatever matter was struch by it vanished beneath its touch, splitting instantly into its original atoms...

...as we swept over them there burned down from our own cruisers the blue de-atomizing ray, striking more than a score of ships in the fleet below, and annihilating them instantly.

From Crashing Suns, by Edmond Hamilton.
Published by Popular Fiction Publishing Co. in 1928
Additional resources -

For a more modern description of a disintegration ray, take a look at the classic Wunderland treatymaker, from Larry Niven's 1990 novel Ringworld Engineers.

Also, Philip Nowlan wrote about a disintegrator ray the same year in his story Armageddon: 2149 A.D., the basis for the Buck Rogers serials of the 1930's.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Crashing Suns
  More Ideas and Technology by Edmond Hamilton
  Tech news articles related to Crashing Suns
  Tech news articles related to works by Edmond Hamilton

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