Graphite is key to manufacturing the lithium-ion batteries that power everything from electric cars to smartphones. While China is the world’s top producer and exporter of the crystalline carbon, there’s been a push to grow a US supply chain. Oakland-based startup Molten Industries is working to build it by relying on something that’s cheap and abundant in the US: natural gas. The company has developed a specialized technique to break methane into graphite and hydrogen, the latter of which can be used as a source of clean energy. The effort is funded in part by a $25 million Series A financing round led by Bill Gates’s Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV).