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Helena Chum — Research Fellow

Dr. Helena Chum is a Research Fellow in the National Bioenergy Center at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and a member of the NREL Research Fellows Council that reports to the Science and Technology Deputy Director.

Her expertise is in renewable fuels, transportation systems, and international renewable energy activities including biomass, biofuels, and biorefineries.

Dr. Chum conducts research on the sustainability of biomass and biofuels in the global context. She has developed technologies for the conversion of biomass and a variety of organic wastes into fuels, including hydrogen, chemicals, electricity, and high value materials. She directed analytical chemical research and the development of standards and reference materials for biomass. To these and other fields she has contributed more than 110 papers, is a co–inventor of 20 patents, and has lectured and participated in seminars and conferences worldwide. She participated in the development of the Office of Science and Technology Policy's National Environmental Technology Strategy, released in 1995.

Dr. Chum is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of the International Academy of Wood Science, of the Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division of the American Chemical Society, and of the American Chemical Society. She served as a member of the Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel from 1998 to 2003. She received the Individual Trail Blazer Award in Green Engineering, presented by HENAAC Inc. and Green Technology Magazine, in 2006. She has served on several Advisory Boards of universities and organizations and represented NREL in the Council for Chemical Research. She served in the Office of Industrial Technologies' Industry of the Future Program, representing NREL on the Laboratory Coordinating Council and chairing this Council in 1997. She was an Associate Editor of the Clean Processes and Products journal (Springer) and Editor of CHEMTECH (ACS).

Professional Experience

Trained in physical and industrial chemistry, Dr. Chum has worked in bioenergy and renewable energy since 1979 at the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI), now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), leading research and development branches, divisions, and centers in industrial technologies and bioenergy since 1992. Prior to joining SERI/NREL, she was Assistant Professor of Physical Chemistry at the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, for 8 years, and was a Visiting Scientist at the Heyrovsky Institute of Polarography, Prague, Czechoslovakia, and at the Chemistry Department of Colorado State University.

Dr. Chum's contributions address various fields of research, including inorganic and organic chemistry, analytical chemistry, physical chemistry, electrochemistry, applied microbiology, materials science, paper and wood science, chemical engineering, energy and fuels, polymer science, forestry, agricultural engineering, and environmental science and technology.

International Contributions

Dr. Chum has led or contributed to numerous international research activities in the fields of renewable energy and sustainability. Her international contributions include:

  • Coordinating lead author of the Bioenergy chapter of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Renewable Energy and Climate Change Mitigation (2009-2011).
  • Panel member on the Committee for U.S.-Chinese Cooperation on Electricity from Renewable Resources (2009-2010). Report generated by the binational committee.
  • Biofuels, bioenergy, and sustainability implementation activities since 2007 for DOE/NREL as part of the Bilateral U.S.-Brazil R&D activities of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to Advance Cooperation in Biofuels; the bilateral MOU includes collaboration on the sustainability of biofuels.
  • Governance Chamber member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, based in Lausanne, Switzerland.
  • Technical contributor to the Global Bioenergy Partnership, GHG and Sustainability Task Forces.
  • Identification of gaps and opportunities for intergovernmental collaboration in biomass and hydrogen R&D.
  • Development of methodologies to address technological issues in technology transfer (including contributing author participation in IPCC report).
  • Taxonomic analysis of Brazilian competencies and actions to further fuel cell development in Brazil, working with Brazilian researchers from universities, research institutions, and industry. From these activities the Brazilian government subsequently started the Brazilian Fuel Cell Program (Pro CaC, Programa Brasileiro de Sistemas de Células a Combustível).
  • Instrumental in implementing the Bilateral US-Brazil Hydrogen Program for DOE and USAID.
  • Development of the "Brasilia Statement Directives and Action Plan for Solar, Wind and Biomass Renewable Energy Development in Brazil" in 1995.
  • Field implementation of the U.S.-Brazil program on rural electrification in 1992, which contributed to the current Brazilian government program "Luz para Todos."


  • Ph.D. 1972 University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil (Physical Chemistry)
  • B.S. 1968 University of São Paulo (Chemistry with Industrial Specialization)
  • B.S. 1968 University of São Paulo (Chemical Education)

Professional Activities

  • American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
  • American Chemical Society (ACS)
  • American Solar Energy Society (ASES)
  • Editorial Board Revista Brasileira de Bioenergia
  • Visiting Committee Member, Department of Chemical Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado
  • Advisory Board, Center for Sustainable Solutions, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan



  • 2010 Fellow, American Chemical Society
  • 2006 Individual "Trail Blazer" Green Engineering Award
  • 2005 Fellow, American Chemical Society's Division of Cellulose and Renewable Materials for outstanding professional service (20 years)
  • Member Hydrogen Technical Advisory Panel (1998–2003)
  • Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1995)
  • Certificate of Appreciation for leadership in the development of the National Environmental Technology Strategy and contributions to pollution prevention and environmental technologies for the U.S. Department of Energy by EERE (1995)
  • Member of the Environmental Technologies Working Group of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (Environmental Division) 1994–1995
  • Federal Laboratory Consortium Technology Transfer Awards (1990, 1994)
  • Associated Western Universities Distinguished Lectureship Award (1992–1993)
  • Fellow of the International Academy of Wood Science (1991)
  • 1990 R&D 100 Award for Inexpensive Phenol Replacements from Biomass


  • MRI President's Award for Exceptional Performance (1990, 1992)
  • MRI Francis Van Morriss Award (1988)
  • SERI Outstanding Performance Award (1982)



  • Chum, H.L. (2000). "The importance of clean products and processes from alternative feedstocks." Clean Products and Processes (1); pp. 127–128.
  • Chum, H.L. (2001). "Hydrogen." Clean Products and Processes (3); pp. 281–283.

Committee Publications

  • Chum, H.; Faaij, A.; Moreira, J.; Berndes, G.; Dhamija, P.; Dong, H.; Gabrielle, B.; Goss Eng, A.; Lucht, M.; Mapako, M.; Masera Cerutti, O.; McIntyre, T.; Minowa, T.; Pingoud, K. (2011). "Bioenergy." In IPCC Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation; Edenhofer, O.; Pichs-Madruga, R.; Sokona, Y.; Seyboth, K.; Matschoss, P.; Kadner, S.; Zwickel, T.; Eickemeier, P.; Hansen, G.; Schlömer, S.; von Stechow, C., eds. Cambridge, UK and New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
  • National Academy of Engineering, National Research Council and Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Engineering (2010). "The Power of Renewables: Opportunities and Challenges for China and the United States." National Academies Press.

Selected Publications

  • Chum, H.L. (2012). "Renewable Energy and Climate Change — Symposium in Honor of 2009 and 2010 ACS Fellows in the Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Division." Presentation at 24th ACS National Meeting, August 20, 2012.
  • Seabra, J.E.A.; Macedo, I.C.; Chum, H.L.; Faroni, C.E.; Sarto, C.A. (2011). "Life Cycle Assessment of Brazilian Sugarcane Products: GHG Emissions and Energy Use." DOI: 10.1002/bbb.289.
  • Seabra, J.E.A.; Tao, L.; Chum, H.L.; Macedo, I.C. (2010). "A Techno-Economic Evaluation of the Effects of Centralized Cellulosic Ethanol and Co-Products Refinery Options with Sugarcane Mill Clustering." Biomass and Bioenergy (34:8), pp. 1065–1078.
  • Chum, H.L.; Arvizu, D. (2008). "Liquid Biofuels as a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels: Technology — Sustainability Considerations." Brazilian Bioenergy Journal (3); pp. 48–53. (Portuguese and English).
  • Agblevor, F.A.; Hames, B.R.; Schell, D.; Chum, H.L. (2007). "Analysis of Biomass Sugars Using a Novel HPLC Method." Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology (136:3); pp. 309–326.
  • Chum, H.L.; Overend, R.P. (2003). "Chapter 3: Biomass and Bioenergy in the United States," Goswami, D. Y., ed. Advances in Solar Energy: An Annual Review of Research and Development, Volume 15. Boulder, CO: American Solar Energy Society, Inc. (ASES) pp. 83–148; NREL Report No. CH-510-31326.
  • Chum, H. L.; Overend, R. P. (2001). "Biomass and Renewable Fuels." Fuel Processing Technology (71:1-3); pp. 187–195.
  • Chum, H. L., Contributing Author. Moreira, J.B., Coordinating Lead Author (2001). "Chapter 10: Energy Supply." Methodological and Technological issues in Technology Transfer Working Group Report, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Available at
  • Chum, H.L.; Black, S.K.; Johnson, D.K.; Sarkanen, K.V.; Robert, D. (1999). "Organosolv Pretreatment for Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Poplars: Isolation and Quantitative Structural Studies of Lignins." Clean Products and Processes (1); pp. 187–198.
  • Weiner, S.C.; Cranford, B.; Chum, H. (1998). "The Chemical Industry of the Future: Two Views." CHEMTECH (28); pp. 10–17.
  • Evans, R.J.; Wang, D.; Agblevor, F.A.; Chum H.L.; Baldwin, S.D. (1996). "Mass Spectrometric Studies of the Thermal Decomposition of Carbohydrates Using 13C-Labeled Cellulose and Glucose." Carbohydrate Research (281); pp. 219–235.
  • Agblevor, F.A.; Rejai, B.; Wang, D.; Wiselogel, A.; Chum, H.L. (1994). "Influence of Storage Conditions on the Production of Hydrocarbons from Herbaceous Biomass." Biomass and Bioenergy (7:1-6); pp. 213–222.
  • Johnson, D.A.; Maclean, D.; Feller, J.; Diebold, J.; Chum, H.L. (1994). "Developments in the Scale-up of the Vortex-Pyrolysis System." Biomass and Bioenergy (7:1-6); pp. 259–266.
  • Chum, H.L.; Johnson, D.K.; Agblevor, F.; Evans, R.J.; Hames, B.R.; Milne, T.A.; Overend, R.P. (1994). "Status of the IEA Voluntary Standards Activity - Round Robins on Whole Wood and Lignins." Bridgwater, A.V., ed. Advances in Thermochemical Biomass Conversion. Glasgow: Blackie A&P; pp. 1701–1716.
  • Chum, H.L.; Power, A.J. (1992). "Opportunities for the Cost-Effective Production of Biobased Materials." Rowell, R.M.; Schultz, T.P.; Narayan, R., eds. ACS Symposium Series 476, Emerging Technologies for Materials and Chemicals from Biomass. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; pp. 28–41.
  • Chum, H. L.; Power A. J. (1992). "Potentials and Pitfalls of Biomass and Waste Conversion." Rowell R.; Schultz, T.P.; Narayan, R., eds. ACS Symposium Series 476, Emerging Materials and Chemicals from Biomass and Wastes. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; pp. 339–353.
  • Chum, H.L.; Overend, R.P.; Cushman, J. (1992). "Renewable Resources for Fuel, Power, and Chemicals: The Interface Between Production and Conversion Technologies." Moorer, R., ed. Proceedings of Biomass Feedstock/Conversion Scale-up Activities and Issues, Working Group Meeting, June 19, 1991. Washington, DC: Biofuels Systems Division; 14 pp.
  • Chum, H.L.; Johnson, D.K.; Black, S. (1990). "Organosolv Pretreatment for Enzymic Hydrolysis of Poplars: 2. Catalyst Effects and the Combined Severity Parameter." Industrial and Engineering Chemistry Research (29:2); pp. 156–162.
  • Chum, H.L.; Johnson, D.K.; Black, S.; Baker, J.; Grohmann, K.; Sarkanen, K.V.; Wallace, K.; Schroeder, H.A. (1988). "Organosolv Pretreatment for Enzymatic Hydrolysis of Poplars: I. Enzyme Hydrolysis of Cellulosic Residues." Biotechnology and Bioengineering (31); pp. 643–649.
  • Chum, H.L.; Baizer, M.M. (1985). "Electrochemistry of Biomass and Derived Materials." ACS Monograph 183. Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; 314 pp.
  • Chum, H.L.; Koran, D.; Osteryoung, R.A. (1978). "Photochemistry of Iron(II) Diimine Complexes in a Room Temperature Molten Salt." Journal of the American Chemical Society (100:1); pp 310–312.
  • Chum, H.L.; Koch V.R.; Miller L.L.; Osteryoung, R.A. (1975). "An Electrochemical Scrutiny of Organometallic Iron Complexes and Hexamethyl-Benzene in a Room Temperature Molten Salt." Journal of the American Chemical Society (97); pp. 3264–3265.
  • Chum, H.L.; Krumholz, P. (1974). "Ligand Oxidation in Iron Diimine Complexes. I. Stoichiometry and Products of the Oxidation of tris[glyoxalbis(methyl imine)]iron(II) by Cerium(IV)." Inorganic Chemistry (13); pp. 519–524.
  • Chum, H.L.; Krumholz, P. (1974). "Ligand Oxidation in Iron Diimine Complexes. II. Rate and Mechanism of the Oxidation of tris[glyoxalbis-(methylimine)] iron(II) by Cerium(IV)." Inorganic Chemistry (13); pp. 514–518.

NREL Publications and Patents

View all NREL publications for Helena Chum.