Designing a material from the atomic level to achieve a tailored response in extreme conditions is a grand challenge in materials research. Nanostructured metals and composites provide a path to this goal because they contain interfaces that attract, absorb and annihilate point and line defects. These interfaces recover and control defects produced in materials subjected to extremes of displacement damage, impurity implantation, stress and temperature. Controlling radiation-induced-defects via interfaces is shown to be the key factor in reducing the damage and imparting stability in certain nanomaterials under conditions where bulk materials exhibit void swelling and/or embrittlement. We review the recovery of radiation-induced point defects at free surfaces and grain boundaries and stabilization of helium bubbles at interphase boundaries and present an approach for processing bulk nanocomposites containing interfaces that are stable under irradiation. 2013 Elsevier Ltd.