This highlight discusses recent trends in the search for new high-efficiency thermoelectric materials. Thermoelectric materials offer considerable attractions in the pursuit of a more efficient use of existing energy resources, as they may be used to construct power-generation devices that allow useful electrical power to be extracted from otherwise waste heat. Here, we focus on the significant enhancements in thermoelectric performance that have been achieved through nanostructuring. The principal factor behind the improved performance appears to be increased phonon scattering at interfaces. This results in a substantial reduction in the lattice contribution to thermal conductivity, a low value of which is a key requirement for improved thermoelectric performance. © 2010 The Royal Society of Chemistry.