In the continued development of materials for use within a nuclear reactor, whether it be fission or fusion based, how a material behaves under the extremes of damage radiation is a key factor in its applicability. The impacts arising from radiation induced damage are generally damaging, ranging from local damage through to full amorphisation, or the formation of new phases both by equilibrium or non-equilibrium synthesis. Such changes often have macro-scale impacts, for example a reduction in thermal conductivity, or change in a ductility. However, they key length scale at which all changes can be considered is at the nano-scale, where damage can be visualised most easily.
Using electron microscopy as a key aid in determining the impacts from damage, a range of systems, primarily ceramic in nature, will be discussed. Such materials are key components in multiple next generation reactor technologies, whether it be fission or fusion, fuel or structural in application. Regardless of the application, there are common factors that influence a response to radiation induced damage, and the examples presented here will help link the common themes, whether they be compositional or structural in nature.