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Matthew Thornton

Group Research Manager III-Mechanical Engineering

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Matthew Thornton joined NREL in 2000 and currently manages the fuels and combustion science group, which conducts cross-cutting research spanning from individual molecules to vehicle-scale fuel economy and emissions performance. Part of the Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences, the group explores the chemical basis for how biofuels, advanced petroleum-based fuels, fuel blends, and natural gas perform in engines and vehicles for ground transportation as well as in fuel pumps, storage tanks, and distribution systems.

In conjunction with his NREL position, Thornton serves as an affiliate professor at Colorado State University and an adjunct professor at the Colorado School of Miles, where he teaches a course he developed on transportation, energy, and the environment.

Previously, Thornton was NREL’s principal investigator for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Hydrogen Storage Engineering Center of Excellence, advancing materials-based hydrogen storage systems for fuel cell vehicles. He also oversaw NREL’s Renewable Fuels and Lubricants Lab as well as the vehicle systems analysis team, which conducts technical simulations and analyses of promising vehicle technologies to find cost-competitive solutions that maximize energy savings and minimize emissions.

Research Interests

Sustainable transportation and mobility pathways

Vehicle systems analysis

Transportation fuels and combustion

Emission formation and controls

Hydrogen storage

Transportation research


Ph.D., Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology

M.S., Civil Engineering, Michigan State University

Master of Urban and Regional Planning, Michigan State University

B.S., Geography (Environmental Science Emphasis), University of Oregon

Professional Experience

National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Principal Research Engineer and Group Manager (2011–Present)

Senior Research Engineer (2000–2011)

Colorado School of Mines, Adjunct Professor (2019–Present)

Colorado State University, Affiliate Professor (2017–Present)

Post, Buckley, Schuh, and Jernigan, Inc., Senior Transportation Engineer (1997–2000)

Atlanta Regional Commission:

Senior Transportation Planner (1995–1997)

Transportation Planner (1994–1995)

Featured Work

System Design, Analysis, and Modeling Activities Supporting the DOE Hydrogen Storage Engineering Center of Excellence, NREL Milestone Report (2019)

Design Tool for Estimating Chemical Hydrogen Storage System Characteristics for Light-Duty Fuel Cell Vehicles, International Journal of Hydrogen Energy (2018)

Aerodynamic Drag Reduction Technologies Testing of Heavy-Duty Vocational Vehicles and a Dry Van Trailer, NREL Technical Report (2016)

Data Collection, Testing, and Analysis of Hybrid Electric Trucks and Buses Operating in California Fleets, NREL Technical Report (2015)

Integrated Vehicle Thermal Management for Advanced Vehicle Propulsion Technologies, NREL Conference Paper (2010)

Technology Improvement Pathways to Cost-Effective Vehicle Electrification, NREL Conference Paper (2010)

View all NREL publications for Matthew Thornton.


Parallel Integrated Thermal Management, U.S. Patent No. 8,806,882