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This experimental paper comprises the results of acoustic emission (AE), microscopic and ultrasonic measurements of samples subjected to slowly increasing compressive stress. On the basis of conducted measurements the successive stages of the material structural degradation have been recognized. The objects of study were samples made of C 120 aluminous porcelain. The investigated material has found at present the application in the fabrication of technical elements like overhead power line insulators. In the case of such objects, not only high mechanical strength, but especially elevated durability as well as operational reliability are required. The expected "life time" of net insulators during exploitation is about 40 years. The analysis of obtained mechanoacoustic dependences pointed out a complex mechanism of degradation of the material. Microscopic investigation of samples, which were stressed to different levels of load, enabled to specify the development of gradual growth of microcracks and successive crushing out of elements of the structure. These processes appear to be similar to the ageing processes occurring in the material during long period of exploitation under a working load. Three stages of the structure degradation were distinguished. The preliminary and subcritical ones show low or moderate intensity of AE signals and considerable variety for the particular samples. The critical stage directly precedes the destructtion of samples. Its range is relatively narrow and reveals the AE activity of high energy. The effectiveness of dispersive and fibrous reinforcement of modern aluminous porcelain C 120 type has been described. Structural strengthening by corundum grains and mullite needle shaped crystals improves mechanical parameters and distinguishes this material from typical aluminosilicate ceramics. The presented results enable drawing up the conclusions concerning the resistance of investigated material to the ageing degradation process development during long term operation.
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