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On the Radar

-- For the recipe for a strong waterproof glue, researchers at Idaho National Engineering & Environmental Laboratory are turning to the experts: mussels. These critters have been clinging tenaciously to underwater objects for centuries. Their tentacles produce an epoxy-like substance as strong as any superglue. The Idaho scientists hope to unravel the glue's secret by cloning mussel genes. That could lead not only to a method of mass production but also to new ways of preventing mussels and mollusks from glomming onto boats.

-- Carbon-fiber reinforements yield some of the strongest composite materials available to engineers. Carbon fibers are expensive, though, costing as much as $400 a pound. That's too expensive for many potential applications. So Conoco Inc. has spent a decade developing a new process that uses cheap refinery byproducts to turn out carbon fibers. The Houston company will build a $125 million fiber plant adjacent to its Ponca City (Okla.) refinery. Commercial production is slated for the second half of next year.By Otis Port

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