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Reports: Obama picks energy chief

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(Read caption) Steven Chu of Stanford University explains his Nobel Prize winning theory on a technique to superfreeze gases and slow down their molecules so they can be studied in detail October 15, 1997 at Standford University in Palo Alto, California. Media reports quoting officials close to the transition team of US President-elect Barack Obama say the President-elect will name Mr. Chu as US Secreatary of Energy.

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Barack Obama will tap Steven Chu, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who runs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, asĀ  to head the Department of Energy, numerous news outlets say, quoting officials close to the President-elect.

According to Mr. Chu's biography posted on Berkeley Lab's website, the St. Louis-born physicist has guided the lab "on a new mission to become the world leader in alternative and renewable energy research, particularly the development of carbon-neutral sources of energy."

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He has jump-started a number of clean-energy initiatives at the lab, many of which have focused on using non-food plants to convert sunlight into liquid fuels and electricity. One of these initiatives, known as Helios, is slated to begin construction in 2010.

His Nobel Prize, which he shared with French physicist Claude Cohen-Tannoudji and American physicist William Daniel Phillips, was awarded in 1997 for his contributions to "laser cooling," a method of trapping gaseous atoms with laser light by tuning its frequency below an the atom's electronic transition. This technique makes it easier to study atoms.

Chu is very highly respected in physics circles, but, according to CNN, some Democrats are concerned at his lack of political experience. Other names that have been floated as pick include California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Secretary of State Colin Powell.

If nominated and confirmed, Chu will be the first Chinese-American to hold this office.