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This article reveals how moving from bulk materials to the nanoscale can significantly change device performance for energy storage and conversion. The development of high-performance Li-ion batteries can benefit from the distinct properties of nanomaterials, such as high surface areas, short diffusion paths, and a large quantity of active sites, as well as freedom for volume change during charging or discharging cycles. Among a wide range of synthetic methods in preparing nanomaterials, simple and elegant are soft chemistry routes that involve sol-gel reactions and that frequently use organic molecules as structure-directing templates. Applications of nanotechnology in energy storage are in the stage of research and development. For realization of wide industrial applications, further work is required to achieve controlled and large-scale synthesis of nanostructures, to understand mechanisms of Li storage in nanomaterials and kinetic transport on the interface between electrode and electrolyte. The effects of nanostructures in battery performance are not simple consequences of a reduction in size. The interfacial properties are subtle and critical, considering space-charge effects at the interface between nanosized electrode materials and charge transport between electrode and electrolyte. This challenges researchers worldwide to carry out systematic experimental studies and to develop predictive theoretical tools for better fundamental understanding of relationships between nanostructures and electrochemical characteristics of electrode materials.