Abstract The modifications of the microstructure of yttria-stabilized cubic zirconia and silicon carbide single crystals implanted with high concentrations of noble gas ions and subsequently annealed at high temperature were characterized using RBS/C, XRD and TEM. It is found that the annealing behavior is strongly dependent on both the material and the implanted noble gases. Ar-implanted yttria-stabilized zirconia shows no significant microstructural modification upon annealing at 800°C, e.g. dislocations are still present and the size of the Ar bubbles does not evolve. This is in strong contrast with previous observations on helium-implanted zirconia, where the formation of bubbles and elongated fractures were observed. In the case of SiC, thermal annealing at 1000°C shows an enhanced damage recovery when He is implanted as compared to Ar implantation and the recrystallization of the matrix is accompanied with the release of noble gas atoms. This difference can be ascribed to different atomic radii, and thus mobility of implanted species.