He has also picked Lisa Jackson - former commissioner of New Jersey's Department of Environmental Protection for - Environmental Protection Agency administrator.
Former EPA administrator Carol Browner, who has led the energy and environmental policy team for Mr. Obama's transition, will serve as energy "czar," a newly created role.
A Chinese-American, Chu is a professor of physics and molecular and cell biology at the University of California-Berkeley and has been the director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory since 2004, where he has pushed aggressively for research into alternative energy as a way to combat global warming.
Lawrence Berkeley is the oldest of the Energy Department's national laboratories, but does only unclassified work and in recent years under Chu has been at the center of research into biofuels and solar technologies. Chu has been a strong advocate for the need to engage scientists in the search for ways to combat global warming by replacing fossil fuels with other energy sources such as biofuels and the sun.
Obama is expected to make the announcements in the coming weeks. It is not clear whom he will tap for interior secretary, a closely related role.
Jackson worked at the EPA under Browner before taking her current role at New Jersey's environmental agency.
Browner, who ran the EPA under President Clinton, will oversee energy, environment and climate matters in the new energy czar post.
Earlier Wednesday, transition officials said that Mr. Obama has selected Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Nancy Sutley to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
The city's deputy mayor for energy and environment and the mayor's representative on the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, Sutley has a long record of working on environmental and natural resources policy.
She previously served on the California State Water Resources Control Board, which is responsible for protecting water quality and resources throughout the state and was a special assistant to the Browner during the Clinton administration.
Sutley is the first prominent member of the gay and lesbian community to earn a senior role in the new administration. She supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the Democratic primary and was a member of her Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender steering committee.
On Thursday, Obama will hold a news conference in Chicago to name former Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle as secretary of health and human services, a choice confirmed by Democratic officials last month.
John Berry, the director of the National Zoo and a former assistant secretary at the Interior Department appeared to be the frontrunner for the interior secretary post, transition aides said. Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva and California Rep. Mike Thompson were also thought to be in the running.