CableLab

Materials Testing Laboratory

One of the major concerns that utilities, manufacturers, and other large industrial facilities face is how to address aging for the vast quantities of cables that power and run these facilities. Large scale cable replacements can be very expensive and prohibitive to continued long term operation. AMS is strategically aligned to help solve these issues using the technologies and knowledge the company has developed for the nuclear power industry, which has had to confront these aging concerns before most industries due to the unique environmental stressors present during plant operation.

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AMS has addressed this industry need by developing a comprehensive Materials Testing Laboratory which focuses primarily on evaluating age related degradation of insulation materials in electrical cables. AMS has performed extensive research in the area of cable aging and uses a wide variety of electrical, mechanical, and thermal-chemical condition monitoring tests to determine the aged condition and provide remaining useful life estimates for industrial cables. These laboratory tests are typically performed on cable samples removed from service and sent to our laboratory for analysis. The results of this testing provides important information on the overall health of industrial cables and can be used as justification for continued operability as well as to inform maintenance practices for future cable replacements.

 
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Recently, cable aging assessments were performed for a nuclear power plant that wanted to determine the aged condition of installed cables that had been exposed to elevated temperatures and other environmental stressors during operation. The goal of this project was to determine both the current condition of the cable polymers and estimate how much time the insulation materials could remain exposed to their in-service environmental conditions in the plant before reaching their end of life condition. AMS routinely performs As-Found condition assessments using the following test methods:

 

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  • Visual and Optical Microscope Inspections
  • Insulation Resistance
  • Indenter Modulus
  • Elongation at Break
  • Oxidation Induction Time
  • Thermo-gravimetric Analysis
  • Relative Density
  • Scanning Electron Microscopy / Electron Dispersive X-Ray Spectroscopy (SEM/EDS)
  • Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy
  • Electrical Permittivity
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The data acquired during the As-Found condition assessment is normally compared against AMS’s database of condition monitoring tests from aged and unaged cable insulation materials made with similar polymers. This provides important information on the cable’s electrical, mechanical, and chemical properties which can then be used to determine potential degradation and/or failure mechanisms, monitor age related degradation, and assess the current aged condition of the cable insulation materials.
 
Following the As-Found condition assessments, accelerated aging is performed to determine remaining useful life estimates for each of the cable samples. By comparing data acquired during initial testing to data at multiple points in the aging process, AMS is able to determine the estimated remaining useful life of a cable polymer. In the case study described above, the cable samples were estimated to last at least ten years based on the environmental conditions the cables were exposed to during operation. This information provided the facility information that was used to develop a cable replacement schedule and avoid unnecessary replacements.

For more information on AMS’s Materials Testing Laboratory please contact info@ams-corp.com.