As insulation systems of power system components such as electrical motors, generators and transformers degrade, they become brittle, crack and, eventually, fail to perform their intended function. Failure of the insulation system of these components often leads to costly power interruptions that could be prevented if the actual condition of the insulation system is known. The degradation mechanisms of modern insulation systems are highly dependent on the actual environmental and operational conditions of the component. Current methods to measure insulation system condition are often complex, expensive and require specialized training to interpret. In contrast, conductive composite sensors made of the same polymeric components as the insulation system itself monitor the actual environmentally and operationally induced degradation of the component insulation and provide a quick, objective indication of the current condition and remaining design life of the insulation. This innovative technology utilizes low-cost, inert conductive particles compounded with a portion of the insulation polymer to provide a tiny degradation sensor embedded into the winding, core or stator of the component. Sensor output correlates with the degraded state of the insulation system relative to standard industry thermal endurance testing, giving advanced warning of a degraded condition of the insulation system before design conditions are exceeded. Maintenance personnel, utilizing a simple ohmmeter, can read sensor output quickly and reliably without specialized equipment or training. Alternately, threshold-warning devices connected to the sensor provide constant monitoring. Conductive composite degradation sensors provide advance warning of prematurely degraded insulation systems and reduce the need for complex, intrusive and sometimes destructive electrical testing. Because conductive composite degradation sensors require no electrical power during the aging process, they are ideally suited to wireless, passive radio frequency identification (RFID), and “smart label” technologies.

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