Innovations

-- To keep expensive pesticides from falling where they shouldn't, scientists at the University of Georgia have developed a program called the Spray Advisor Genetic Algorithm (SAGA). It uses artificial intelligence to optimize the aerial spraying of a bacterial protein poisonous only to certain types of forest-loving gypsy moths and spruce budworms. SAGA incorporates data about humidity, spray nozzles, and aircraft turbulence to calculate optimal spraying strategies.

-- Aluminum smelting is an air-polluting and costly process. U.S. smelters gobble up 44.2 billion kilowatt-hours of power each year--about what it takes to power the Big Apple. But new technology developed at Ohio State University could cut that number by 40%. Using innovations borrowed from fuel-cell technology, the researchers plan to replace greenhouse-gas- belching carbon batteries with cleaner, natural-gas-filled zirconium rods. If it works, the tang of aluminum may never be smelt again.

-- That fuzzy mold growing on your loaf of bread may be gross, but it's also useful--and not just as a source of penicillin. Researchers at Australia's Swinburne University of Technology in Hawthorn are trying to use a fungal suspension to mop up the heavy metals in industrial wastes. The technique is far more earth-friendly than current cleanup methods, which harness potentially harmful hydroxides of iron and aluminium.