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Seed-inspired vehicles and a deadly lake — the week in infographics

North–south divide

Research on economic issues relating to developing countries is led predominantly by researchers based in the global north, according to an analysis of nearly 25,000 papers. Published in Applied Economics Letters, the findings show that although many studies focus on countries or regions in the global south, researchers based there have been vastly under-represented in the literature for decades. Just 16% of 24,894 articles published in 20 high-profile development journals between 1990 and 2019 were authored by researchers based in the global south, compared with 73% authored by researchers in the global north and 11% that were collaborations between researchers in the north and south.

UNDER-REPRESENTED IN RESEARCH. Chart comparing proportion of research on economic development by researchers in the global south

Explosive potential

Nestled between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda, Lake Kivu harbours something dangerous: in its depths lurk 300 cubic kilometres of dissolved carbon dioxide and 60 cubic kilometres of methane, laced with toxic hydrogen sulfide. The lake has the potential to explosively release these gases, which could send heat-trapping molecules into the atmosphere and could fill the surrounding valley with gas, potentially killing millions of people. The dissolved gases accumulate in denser, bottom layers of the lake, capped by a ‘cork’ of pressure from the waters above. The KivuWatt project is extracting methane from the lake to generate 26 megawatts (MW) of electrical power, and has a contract to increase that to 100 MW. It is also considering options for removing CO2 from the lake and selling it as a commercial product.

Deep gas: a graphic that shows the stratified layers of Lake Kivu, and how methane is extracted from the lower zones of water.

Credit: Nik Spencer/Nature

Seed-inspired vehicles

Many plant seeds, such as those of Dipterocarpus alatus (a), have shapes that aid their dispersal by the wind. In a paper in Nature, researchers reveal a series of aerial vehicles inspired by such seeds. One such vehicle (b) contains a simple circuit to detect airborne particles and can be used as a battery-free wireless device for atmospheric measurements. The circuit consists of a controller, sensors and a coil for wireless power transmission.

An aerial vehicle inspired by wind-dispersed seeds



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