Bill Gates is Enthusiastic About His Visit to a Hydrogen Startup That Uses Carbon-Trapping Asphalt to Fill Potholes

When Bill Gates Trades Code for Carbon-Trapping Asphalt

Imagine, if you will, Bill Gates – yes, *that* Bill Gates – swapping his signature sweater vest for a hard hat and getting down and dirty with a wheelbarow and shovel. This isn’t the opening scene of a tech tycoon’s biopic; it happened IRL. On a fine Wednesday, Gates found himself in a parking lot, of all places, getting hands-on with some groundbreaking carbon-trapping asphalt.

The Brain Behind the Brawn: Modern Hydrogen’s Big Idea

The stage for this unusual occurrence was set by Modern Hydrogen. For those not in the know, this isn’t just any startup. Nestled in the heart of Seattle, these climate tech wizards have been busy cracking natural gas molecules to summon hydrogen for fuel, with a byproduct dubbed ‘carbon black.’ You heard right, a key ingredient in asphalt now comes with a side of eco-friendliness.

“Bill was great,” says CEO Tony Pan

Picture this: Bill Gates, a man who revolutionized how we interact with machines, getting all excited about asphalt. Tony Pan, the grand poobah at Modern Hydrogen, couldn’t stop raving about Gates’ visit. The co-founder of Microsoft wasn’t there just to smile and nod. Oh no, he rolled up his sleeves and dove right in.

What caught Gates’ entrepreneurial eye? A demo of the methane pyrolysis reactor. Imagine turning manure or fossil fuels into pure hydrogen. This isn’t sci-fi; it’s happening. This hydrogen doesn’t just burn clean, leaving nothing but water vapor in its wake; it’s also flexing its muscles in steel manufacturing and energy production.

And get this: Modern Hydrogen isn’t just about flashy demos. They’re on the move, literally, having recently set up shop in Woodinville with plans to supersize their reactors.

A Pivot from Heat to Hydrogen

It all began in the hallowed halls of Intellectual Ventures. Gates, a founding investor, has been part of this journey from when Modern Hydrogen was but a twinkle in Nathan Myhrvold’s eye. Initially dubbed Modern Electron, the startup’s first love was turning wasted heat into electricity. Fast forward, and hydrogen is now the main squeeze.

Gates and the “Swiss Army Knife” of Clean Energy

Bill Gates isn’t just a bystander in the clean energy arena. With Breakthrough Energy, he’s at the forefront, championing hydrogen fuel as a versatile tool in our clean energy arsenal. But let’s not sugarcoat it; hydrogen’s path is fraught with challenges, notably how on earth to transport it efficiently.

Here’s where Modern Hydrogen’s reactors shine. Compact enough to sidestep the transport dilemma, these units are also partly self-sustaining. That’s right, a quarter of the hydrogen produced moonlights as the reactor’s power source.

Asphalt and Carbon Black: An Unlikely Duo

The plot thickens with what to do with the carbon black. Modern Hydrogen had a lightbulb moment, realizing this byproduct could reinvent asphalt, usually a climate offender. This asphalt not only sequesters carbon but could stand to save some serious cash.

Looking Ahead: The Future of Hydrogen Fuel in Washington

Modern Hydrogen’s story is just one chapter in Washington’s hydrogen saga. The Pacific Northwest is gearing up to become a hydrogen hub, aiming to fuel the sector with a cool $1 billion in federal funds.

Picture this: a future where carbon-trapping asphalt and hydrogen fuel are the norms, not the exceptions. Thanks to pioneers like Modern Hydrogen and enthusiasts like Gates, we’re on a tantalizing path to making this a reality. Who knew potholes could lead to such an enthralling tale of innovation and environmental stewardship?

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