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Helena Chum

Contingent Worker-Emeritus Researcher


Dr. Helena Chum is a research fellow in the National Bioenergy Center at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory 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 agriculture, forestry, bioenergy, bioproducts, biofuels, and biorefineries and sustainability.

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 coinventor of 20 patents, and has lectured and participated in seminars and conferences worldwide.

Chum participated in the development of the Office of Science and Technology Policy's National Environmental Technology Strategy, released in 1995. She contributed to assessments of U.S. and global activities in bioenergy and hydrogen fuels. At a global level, she contributes to the development of multilateral assessment reports including for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Global Energy Assessment, and International Energy Agency Bioenergy activities. On bilateral areas, she has contributed to assessments of United States/Brazil on technologies and sustainability, and on technologies for United States/China.

Chum is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, of the American Chemical Society and of its Cellulose and Renewable Materials Division, and of the International Academy of Wood Science. 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). She was selected as a Biofuels Digest 2015 "Top 125 People in the Advanced Bioeconomy."

Areas of Expertise

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

  • Lead author of the Energy Systems Chapter and contributing author of the Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use and Transportation chapters of the International Panel on Climate Change Working Group 3, 5th Assessment Report (2012–2014).
  • 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, benchmarks of the U.S. and Brazilian ethanol industries. Collaborative R&D on coprocessing of biomass pyrolysis oils in petroleum refineries FCC units with Petrobras also under the Strategic Energy Dialogue.
  • Governance Chamber member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, based in Lausanne, Switzerland; then became the Member of the Board of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials 2013–2015. Continues to be a delegate to this organization through the government chamber.
  • Technical contributor to the Global Bioenergy Partnership, GHG and Sustainability Task Forces.
  • Technical contributor to the International Energy Agency Bioenergy, through activities in various tasks, addressing climate change, sustainability certification of bioenergy and biomass, and integrated systems. 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 Clulas a Combustvel).
  • Instrumental in implementing the Bilateral US-Brazil Hydrogen Program for DOE and USAID. Activities continue under the International Partnership for Hydrogen and Fuel Cells in the economy (IPHE).
  • 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 Experience

Trained in physical and industrial chemistry, Chum has worked in bioenergy and renewable energy since 1979 at the Solar Energy Research Institute (SERI), now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 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.

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.

Associations and Accreditations/Memberships

  • 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

Awards and Honors


  • 2015 "Top 125 People in the Advanced Bioeconomy"
  • 2014 External examiner for Ph.D. candidate Alexandre Strapassons dissertation The Limits of Bioenergy: A complex systems approach to land use dynamics and constraints. Imperial College, London
  • 2013–2015 Served as member of the Board of Directors of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials
  • 2009–2011 Served as member and chair of the Government Chamber of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels
  • 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 (19982003)
  • 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) 19941995
  • Federal Laboratory Consortium Technology Transfer Awards (1990, 1994)
  • Associated Western Universities Distinguished Lectureship Award (19921993)
  • 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)


Committee Publications

Book Chapters: SCOPE Bioenergy and Sustainability

  • Bioenergy & Sustainability, Policy Brief, SCOPE, (2015).
  • Bioenergy & Sustainability: Bridging the gaps, SCOPE, (2015)

    Souza, G. M., Victoria, R., Joly, C., & Verdade, L. (Eds.). (2015). Bioenergy & Sustainability: Bridging the gaps (Vol. 72, p. 779). Paris: SCOPE. ISBN 978-2-9545557-0-6
    Multi-authored chapters:

    • Chapter 1. SCOPE Bioenergy and Sustainability Technical Summary, pp. 8-26.
    • Chapter 2. Bioenergy Numbers, pp. 28-57.
    • Chapter 6. Sustainable development and Innovation, pp. 184-217.
    • Chapter 12. Conversion Technologies to Biofuels and Their Use, pp. 368-461


  • Chum, H.L. (2001). "Hydrogen." Clean Products and Processes (3); pp. 281283.
  • Chum, H.L. (2000). "The importance of clean products and processes from alternative feedstocks." Clean Products and Processes (1); pp. 127128.

Videos and Presentations

Bilateral Publications

  • Chum, H.L., Zhang, Y., Hill J., Tiffany, D.G., Morey, R.V., Goss Eng, A., and Haq, Z. (2013). "Understanding the Evolution of Environmental and Energy Performance of the U.S. Corn Ethanol Industry: Evaluation of Selected Metrics." Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining 8 (2), March/April 2014; pp. 224-240.
  • Chum, H. L., Warner, E., Seabra, J. E. A., Macedo, I. (2013). "A Comparison of Commercial Ethanol Production Systems from Brazilian Sugarcane and U.S. Corn." Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining 8 (2), March/April 2014; pp. 205-223.
  • Seabra JEA, Macedo IC, Chum HL, Faroni CE, Sarto CA. (2011). "Life Cycle Assessment of Brazilian Sugarcane Products: GHG emissions and energy use." Biofuels, Bioproducts and Biorefining 5 (5), September/October 2011; pp. 519-532.
  • 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. 10651078.

International Energy Agency Bioenergy: Select Publications

  • Stupak, I., Joudrey, J., Tattersall Smith, C., Pelkmans, L., Chum, H., Cowie, A., Englund, O., Goh, C.S., Junginger, M. (2015). "A global survey of stakeholder views and experiences for systems needed to effectively and efficiently govern sustainability of bioenergy," Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Energy and Environment (11) DOI: 10.1002/wene.166.
  • Pelkmans L., L. Goovaerts, I. Stupak, C. Tat Smith, C S. Goh, M. Junginger, H. Chum, O. Englund, G. Berndes, A. Cowie, E. Thiffault, U. Fritsche, D. Thrn. (2014). "Chapter 6: The role of sustainability requirements in international bioenergy markets." Junginger M., Goh C. S., Faaij A., eds., International Bioenergy Trade: History status & outlook on securing sustainable bioenergy supply demand and markets. Lecture Notes in Energy (17),; pp. 125-143, ISBN: 978-94-007-6981-6.
  • Pelkmans L., L. Goovaerts, C S. Goh, M. Junginger, J. van Dam, I.Stupak, C. Tat Smith, H. Chum, Goss Eng, A., A. Cowie, O. Englund, J. Joudrey, Dahlman, L. (2013). Monitoring Sustainability Certification of Bioenergy Short Summary.

Additional Publications

  • Creutzig, F.; Ravindranath, N.H.; Berndes, G.; Bolwig, S.; Bright, R.; Cherubini, F.; Chum, H.; Corbera, E.; Delucchi, M.; Faaij, A.; Fargione, J.;Haberl, H.; Heath, G.; Lucon, O.; Plevin, R.; Popp, A.; Robledo-Abad, C.; Rose, S.; Smith, P.; Stromman, A.; Suh, S.; Masera, O. (2014). "Bioenergy and Climate Change Mitigation," Global Change Biology: Bioenergy doi: 10.1111/gcbb.12205.
  • Chum, H.L.; Arvizu, D. (2008). "Liquid Biofuels as a Viable Alternative to Fossil Fuels: Technology Sustainability Considerations." Brazilian Bioenergy Journal (3); pp. 4853. (Portuguese and English).
  • 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 15; pp. 83148.
  • Chum, H. L.; Overend, R. P. (2001). "Biomass and Renewable Fuels." Fuel Processing Technology 71(1-3); pp. 187195.
  • 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.
  • 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. 187198.
  • Weiner, S.C.; Cranford, B.; Chum, H. (1998). "The Chemical Industry of the Future: Two Views." Chemtech (28); pp. 1017.
  • 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. 219235.
  • 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" Bridgwater, A.V., ed., Biomass and Bioenergy, 7 (1-6); pp. 213222.
  • 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. 259266.
  • 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." Advances in Thermochemical Biomass Conversion Glasgow: Blackie A&P; pp. 17011716.
  • 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. Rowell, R.M.; Schultz, T.P.; Narayan, R., eds., Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; pp. 2841.
  • Chum, H. L.; Power A. J. (1992). "Potentials and Pitfalls of Biomass and Waste Conversion." Emerging Materials and Chemicals from Biomass and Wastes. ACS Symposium Series 476, Rowell R.; Schultz, T.P.; Narayan, R., eds., Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; pp. 339353.
  • 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. 156162.
  • 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. 643649.
  • Chum, H.L.; Baizer, M.M. (1985). "Electrochemistry of Biomass and Derived Materials." ACS Monograph 183, Washington, DC: American Chemical Society; pp. 314.
  • 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 310312.
  • 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. 32643265.
  • 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. 519524.
  • 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. 514518.

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