This month we take a look at some of the fascinating developments in the world of nuclear fission and fusion and issues that have plagued scientists for years. We'll also take a look at how some of these developments will impact on our overall energy usage through the 21st Century and beyond.

You cannot pick up a paper or turn on the radio without hearing some reference to our environment; greenhouse gases, sustainable energy sources, etc. As a nation we are becoming increasingly aware of the challenges facing our world and the consequences if we do not change our energy consumption patterns.

The challenge facing us today is not only in finding suitable ways to control and harness the energy but to create commercially viable routes to suit our consumption needs.

At the moment there is somewhere in the region of over 430 nuclear fission reactors in the world providing about 15% of the worlds supply of electricity. Research has improved the overall efficiency of these reactors but there are still many hurdles to jump in finally building reactors that will withstand the ever stringent safety tests being employed.

Fusion power is also not without its challenges; we are currently witnessing a surge in interest and investment in looking at how fusion can assist in not only commercial power generating plants but also in military applications.

Whatever the outcome we are on route to uncover some fundamental issues around energy and how materials used to contain these reactions behave.

Our first paper takes on this very theme, Steven Zinkle and Jeremy Busby from Oak Ridge National Laboratory present a fascinating review on structural materials used in a number of situations for fission and fusion energy.

The discovery and design of nuclear fuels is discussed in our second paper, the author Marius Stan walks us through the multi scale models and simulations used to predict irradiation effects on properties such as thermal conductivity, oxygen diffusivity, and thermal expansion.

Atomic scale probing, and modelling can provide a greater understanding of how materials behave in some of the conditions found in fission and fusion reactors, Emmanuelle Marquis et al., from the University of Oxford and National Nuclear Laboratory elaborate.

The science of plasma facing materials for fusion power is an important area of research and D. Duffy at UCL expands on some of the challenges and breakthroughs here.

M. Samaras from the Paul Scherrer institute looks at bubble nucleation and growth, reviewing some of the modelling paradigms used to understand the mechanisms involved.

Our final paper from Ramirez- Cusesta et al., looks at some of the fundamental properties of hydrogen storage and the design of new hydrogen storage materials.

Read full text on ScienceDirect

DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(09)70284-6