-- Tighter regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency are making petroleum-based fuels less attractive to construction-equipment manufacturers such as Caterpillar Inc. So the Peoria (Ill.) company is collaborating with scientists at the Agricultural Research Service to test alternative liquids in their heavy equipment. A key ingredient in the new biodegradable fuel is sunflower oil. Because this plant-based oil remains fluid at temperatures below freezing, it is ideal for use in cold weather.

-- There has been no cheap and easy way to detect weak spots in the miles and miles of power lines that crisscross the country--until it's too late. Now a team of researchers at the Colorado School of Mines may have a solution. The group has developed a high-frequency acoustic device that not only detects a potential problem but also pinpoints precisely where in the line that malfunction occurs. The scientists have filed a patent for the Electro-Magnetic Acoustic Transducer and will begin field-testing it this summer.

-- The key to environmentally friendly cars may be glue. Chemists at the University of Edinburgh have developed a technology that allows metal parts to be glued together--and it's cheaper than welding. So manufacturers can turn to lightweight metals as a way to cut fuel consumption. The scientists, who are beginning to negotiate with car manufacturers, expect to commercialize the technique by 2002.

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