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Thomas Foust

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Dr. Thomas Foust is an internationally recognized expert in the biomass field. His areas of expertise include feedstock production, biomass-to-fuels conversion technologies, and environmental and societal sustainability issues associated with biofuels. He has more than 20 years of research and research management experience, specializing in biomass feedstocks and conversion technologies.

As National Bioenergy Center Director, Dr. Foust guides and directs NREL's research efforts to develop biomass conversion technologies via biochemical and thermochemical routes, as well as critical research areas addressing the sustainability of biofuels. This research focuses on developing the necessary science and technology for converting biomass to biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower in an economical and environmentally sustainable manner.


Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of Idaho, 2004
M.S., Mechanical Engineering, Johns Hopkins University, 1994
B.S., Mechanical Engineering, Pennsylvania State University, 1985
Registered Professional Engineer in Maryland and Idaho

Professional Experience

  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory, National Bioenergy Center Director, 2013–present
  • National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, Executive Director and Principal Investigator (NREL), 2010–2013
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Program Manager and Research Director of Biofuels Program, 2004–2013
  • Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Bioenergy Research Lead, 1999–2004
  • Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory, Senior Advisory Engineer/Scientist, 1997
  • U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Industrial Technologies, Lead Program Manager/Team Leader, 1992–1997
  • U.S. Department of Energy, Office of New Production Reactors, Mechanical Systems Engineer, 1990–1992
  • U.S. Navy, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Qualified Nuclear Test Engineer, Nuclear Energy Engineering — Navy Nuclear Propulsion, 1985–1990

Recent Honors and Awards

  • Number 59 in top 100 most influential people in biofuels (#6 for biofuels researchers), Biofuels Digest, 2010–2012
  • NREL Award of Merit, NREL, 2009–2012
  • Van Morriss Award (annual); award given to top research manager in NREL — peer nomination, NREL, 2007
  • Top Performance Award of Merit, NREL/MRI/Battelle, 2008
  • Award of Merit, NREL, 2006

Board Memberships

  • National Alliance for Advanced Biofuels and Bioproducts DOE Algae Consortium
  • NewBIO: Bringing Biofuels to the Northwest — PSU-led USDA Research Consortium
  • NSF CREST Bioenergy Center

Patents and Applications:

  • Foust, T.D., et al., U.S. Patent No. 6,729,951 (2004). Method and apparatus for selectively harvesting multiple components of a plant material
  • Foust, T.D., et al., Unsaturated matrix, continuous column, water sampling device. U.S. Patent pending. Patent application filed May 2011
  • Foust, T.D., et al., The use of dyes as sugar-degradation and lignin-degradation indicators for use in the 3-D visualization of storage losses in bioenergy feedstock storage. U.S. Patent pending. Patent application filed in 2010
  • Foust, T. D., et al., Virtual reality toolset for biomass fractionation. Invention Disclosure Record filed, February 2004
  • Foust, T.D., et al., Straw or stover bulk collection system. Invention Disclosure Record filed, October 2005

Selected Publications

Dr. Foust has produced or collaborated on more than 60 publications, including approximately 20 peer-reviewed journal publications and 5 book chapters. Some recent publications include:

Contact Information

Thomas Foust, Director
National Bioenergy Center
National Renewable Energy Laboratory
15013 Denver West Parkway
Golden, Colorado 80401
Phone (303) 384-7755