In this contribution for the Golden Jubilee issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Journal of Materials Science, we will discuss the challenges and opportunities of nanoporous metals and their composites as novel energy conversion materials. In particular, we will concentrate on electrical-to-mechanical energy conversion using nanoporous metal-polymer composite materials. A materials system that mimic the properties of human skeletal muscles upon an outside stimulus is coined an 'artificial muscle.' In contrast to piezoceramics, nanoporous metallic materials offer a unique combination of low operating voltages, relatively large strain amplitudes, high stiffness, and strength. Here we will discuss smart materials where large macroscopic strain amplitudes up to 10 % and strain-rates up to 10(-2) s(-1) can be achieved in nanoporous metal/polymer composite. These strain amplitudes and strain-rates are roughly 2 and 5 orders of magnitude larger than those achieved in common actuator materials, respectively. Continuing on the theme of energy-related applications, in the summary and outlook, we discuss two recent developments toward the integration of nanoporous metals into energy conversion and storage systems. We specifically focus on the exciting potential of nanoporous metals as anodes for high-performance water electrolyzers and in next-generation lithium-ion batteries.