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Photo of Thomas D. Foust

Thomas Foust

Center Director II-Technical | 303-384-7755

Research Interests

  • Computational and mathematical modeling of catalytic fast pyrolysis

  • Fuels optimization for high-efficiency engines

  • Biomass sustainability and land use issues

Affiliated Research Programs

  • United Nations Bioenergy and Sustainability Assessment (bioenergy sustainability across its whole lifeline including energy, food, and environmental and climate security)

  • Development of biofuel blending components that can be added to conventional gasoline or diesel engines; spark ignition engine or compression ignition engine efficiency

  • Fluid dynamics and reaction mechanism modeling of catalytic fast pyrolysis processes

  • Strategic planning of the proper role of bioenergy in a sustainable energy future

Areas of Expertise

  • Research and development (R&D) program management

  • Biomass conversion (biochemical and thermochemical) to fuels and chemicals

  • Biofuels sustainability

  • Strategic planning and execution

  • Proposal development

  • Computational modeling and mathematical modeling

  • Fuels optimization for high-efficiency engines

  • Lab- and pilot-plant safety


  • Ph.D., Mechanical Engineering, University of Idaho, 2004

  • M.S., Mechanical Engineer, Johns Hopkins, 1994

  • B.S., Mechanical Engineer, Pennsylvania State University, 1988

Professional Experience

  • Director, National Bioenergy Center (NBC), National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), April 2013present

  • Executive Director and Principal Investigator, National Advanced Biofuels Consortium, NREL, August 2010December 2013

  • Biofuels Program Manager, NREL, October 2004August 2010

  • Bioenergy Research Lead, Idaho National Laboratory (INL), March 1999October 2004

  • Senior Researcher, INL, June 1997March 1999

  • Team Leader/Project Manager, Industries of the Future Program, Department of Energy (DOE), August 1992June 1997

  • Mechanical Systems Engineer, Nuclear Energy Program, DOE, August 1990August 1992

  • Test Engineer, Westinghouse Navy Nuclear Program, June 1988August 1990

Featured Publications

  1. "Ethanol: status and innovation," (forthcoming)

  2. "Understanding Trends in Autoignition of Biofuels: Homologous Series of Oxygenated C5 Molecules," The Journal of Physical Chemistry (2017)

  3. "A quantitative model for the prediction of sooting tendency from molecular structure," Energy & Fuels (2017)

  4. "The role of bioenergy in a climate-changing world," Environmental Development (2017)

  5. "Catalyst Residence Time Distributions in Riser Reactors for Catalytic Fast Pyrolysis. Part 2: Pilot-Scale Simulations and Operational Parameter Study," ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (2017)

  6. "Predictive Model for Particle Residence Time Distributions in Riser Reactors. Part 1: Model Development and Validation," ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (2017)

  7. "Estimation of Heat Transfer Coefficients for Biomass Particles by Direct Numerical Simulation Using Microstructured Particle Models in the Laminar Regime," ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (2016)

  8. "Application of a pyroprobe-Deuterium NMR system – deuterium tracing and mechanistic study of upgrading process for lignin model compounds," Energy and Fuels (2016)

  9. "Nonreactive simulations of a one-dimensional steady-state models through three-dimensional simulations and experimental comparisons,” Applied Energy (2015)

  10. "Bioenergy and Sustainability Policy Brief," based on Bioenergy and Sustainability: Bridging the Gaps (2015)

  11. Chapter 3: Energy Security Bioenergy and Sustainability: Bridging the Gaps," in Bioenergy & Sustainability: Bridging the Gaps (2015)

  12. "Chapter 19: Partnerships, Future and Emerging Technologies," in Industrial Crops—Breeding for Bioenergy and Bioproducts (2015)

  13. "Biomass particle models with realistic morphology and resolved microstructure for simulations of intra-particle transport phenomena," Energy and Fuels (2014)

  14. "Selective upgrading of lignin dimers to aliphatic hydrocarbon biofuels," presented at AIChE Annual Meeting (2014)

  15. "A perspective on oxygenated species in the renery integration of pyrolysis oil," Green Chem. (2014)

  16. "Lignin depolymerization by nickel supported layered-double hydroxide catalysts," Green Chem. (2014)

  17. "Numerical investigation of multiphase dynamic effects in catalytic upgrading of biomass pyrolysis vapor," presented at AIChE Annual Meeting (2013)

  18. "A mechanistic investigation of acid-catalyzed cleavage of aryl-ether linkages: Implications for lignin depolymerization in acidic environments," ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering (2013)

  19. "Experimental study of mechanistic acid deconstruction of lignin," ACS Abstracts (2011)

  20. "Computational study of bond dissociation enthalpies for a large range of native and modified lignins," J. of Physical Chemistry Letters (2011)

  21. "Chapter 12: Computational Fluid Dynamics Modeling of Biomass Gasification and Pyrolysis," in Computational Modeling in Lignocellulosic Biofuel Production (2010)

  22. "Advanced Biofuels in the Transition towards Clean Energy," ME Today (2009)

  23. "An economic and environmental comparison of a biochemical and a thermochemical lignocellulosic ethanol conversion processes," Cellulose (2009)

  24. "Technoeconomic analysis of the dilute sulfuric acid and enzymatic hydrolysis process for the conversion of corn stover to ethanol," Cellulose (2009)

  25. "Optimizing the sustainability of ethanol conversion at the biorefinery," presented at AICHE Annual Meeting (2009)

  26. "Chapter 2: The Biorefinery," in Biomass Recalcitrance (2008)

  27. A National Laboratory Market and Technology Assessment of a Scenario to Supply Thirty Percent of Transportation Fuels with Biofuels by 2030, NREL Technical Report (2007)

  28. "Biomass Recalcitrance: Engineering Plants and Enzymes for Biofuels Production," Science (2007)

  29. Heat Exchanger Performance Enhancement Methodologies, DOE Technical Report (2004)

  30. "Heat Transfer Enhancement at Minimal Pressure Drop Through the Combined Use of Oval Tubes and Winglet Vortex Generators," Ph.D. Dissertation (2004)

  31. "Numerical Simulation of Black Liquor Spray Characteristics," in Proceedings of IMECE ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition (2002)

  32. "Selective harvest of higher value wheat straw components," in Proceedings of Bioenergy 2002 (2002)

  33. "Distributed harvest of higher value whet straw components," presented at ASAE Annual International Meeting (2002)

  34. "Measurements and code comparisons for advanced gas reactor coolant channels containing spacer ribs," in Proceedings of IMECE ASME International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition (2002)

  35. "Industrial Membrane Filtration and Fractal Separation Systems for Bioenergy Separations," presented at 24th Symposium on Biotechnology for Fuels and Chemicals (2002)

  36. "Heat Transfer Enhancement for Finned-Tube Heat Exchangers with Vortex Generators: Experimental and Numerical Results," in Proceedings of International Heat Transfer Conference (2002)

  37. "Numerical and Experimental Methods for Heat Transfer Enhancement for Finned-Tube Heat Exchangers with Oval Tubes," in Proceedings of NHTC 35th National Heat Transfer Conference (2001)

  38. "External Research and Energy Efficiency in the Process Industries," in Proceeding of the 2nd ACEEE Industrial Energy Conference (1997)

  39. "Chapter 18: Environmental Life-Cycle Assessment," in Environmental Life-Cycle Assessment (1996)

Congressional Testimony

  1.  "Hearing on Food, Feed, and Fuel Production: Today and Tomorrow," U.S. Senate Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, August 18, 2008

  2. "Hearing on a Path Toward Broader Use of Biofuels: Enhancing the Federal Commitment to Research and Development to Meet the Growing Need," U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology, June 14, 2007

View all NREL Publications for Tom Foust.