Two recent papers in Nano Letters caught my eye.
Kuemmeth et al., "Measurement of Discrete Energy-Level Spectra in Individual Chemically Synthesized Gold Nanoparticles"
One of the first things that I try to teach student in my nano courses is the influence of nanoscale confinement on the electronic properties of metals. We learn in high school chemistry about the discrete orbitals in atoms and small molecules, and how we can think about filling up those orbitals. The same basic idea works reasonably well in larger systems, but the energy difference between subsequent levels becomes much smaller as system size increases. In bulk metals the single-particle levels are so close together as to be almost continuous. In nanoparticles at low temperatures, however, the spacing is reasonably large compared to the available thermal energy that one can do experiments which probe this discrete spectrum. Now, in principle the detailed spectrum depends on the exact arrangement of metal atoms, but in practice one can look at the statistical distribution of levels and compare that distribution with a theory (in this case, "random matrix theory") that averages in some way over possible configurations. This paper is a beautiful example of fabrication skill and measurement technique. There are no big physics surprises here, but the data are extremely pretty.
Xiao et al., "Flexible, stretchable, transparent carbon nanotube thin film loudspeakers"
This is just damned cool. The authors take very thin films of carbon nanotubes and are able to use them as speakers even without making the films vibrate directly. The idea is very simple: convert the acoustic signal into current (just as you would to send it through an ordinary speaker) and run that current through the film. Because of the electrical resistance of the film (low, but nonzero), the film gets hot when the current is at a maximum. Because the film is so impressively low-mass, it has a tiny heat capacity, meaning that small energy inputs result in whopping big temperature changes. The film locally heats the air adjacent to the film surface, launching acoustic waves. Voila. A speaker with no moving parts. This is so simple it may well have real practical implementation. Very clever.