J. Keith Nelson


Dr. Nelson was the Philip Sporn Professor of Electric Power Engineering at Rensselaer until 2009, having served as Head of the Department of Electric Power Engineering from 1987 to 2001. Previously he had been Manager of High Field Technology Programs at the General Electric Corporate Research and Development Center in Schenectady, NY, after serving as a faculty member at the University of London in the UK. His early career and training had been in the utility industry with Eastern Electricity in the UK. He holds degrees from the University of London and is a Fellow both of the IEEE and the IET. Keith Nelson has been very active in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, and is past President of the IEEE Dielectrics and Electrical Insulation Society. He was elected as a Director of the IEEE in 2010. He has acted extensively as an industrial consultant to numerous organizations and is an evaluator for the Acceditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).. Dr. Nelson has been the recipient of many awards from professional organizations such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology {formally the IEE} (UK), the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (US), the Edison Electric Institute, the Royal Society, and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. In 2007, he was awarded the "Outstanding Professor Award" by the Rensselaer Engineering School, and more recently (2017), The Maquis Lifetime Achievement Award. A full Curriculum Vitae is available. A pictorial portrait may also be viewed to depict his life and times.


The primary area of interest involves the physical phenomena of power system equipment. This embraces dielectric phenomena and high voltage technology, physical electronics, gas physics, and, more recently, the application of superconductivity to power apparatus and the development of nanodielectrics. As an experimentalist, Dr. Nelson is particularly interested in the development of computer-based diagnostic instrumentation for power plant (currently transformers and generators). Acoustic and optical methods; as well as artificial intelligence are often invoked in this arena. Computer numerical modeling of the physical processes involved is often an important element in this work. The involvement in high-voltage and transient phenomena also includes a strong interest in electrostatics. Interest has centered both on the understanding and mitigation of unwanted electrostatic effects (e.g. streaming electrification) and also on the utilization of electrostatics for such things as precipitators.

Research Specializations

  • Streaming Electrification and ECT in liquids
  • Generator Insulation Diagnostics
  • Ultrasonic interrogation of insulating structures
  • Artificial intelligence applied to partial discharge analysis
  • Development and application of nanodielctrics
  • Superconducting quench phenomena
  • Distributed generation and islanding issues
  • Large scale computer modeling in connection with these activities.

Since 2002, most of Professor Nelson's research activity has centered on the development of nanodielectrics as a new class of insulating materials. This activity is encapsulated in a new book entitled "Dielectric Polymer Nanocomposites" which was published by "Springer-Verlag" in early 2010.


Courses previously taught in the Electric Power program:

  • EPOW-4030
    • EPE Laboratory
  • EPOW-4850
    • Electric Power Engineering Design
  • EPOW-6850
    • Electric and Magnetic Fields in EPE
  • EPOW-6900
    • Seminar in EPE


Dr. Nelson has over 250 technical papers, patents and book chapters published. A full reference list is available, but a few representative examples over many years are given below:

  1. Nelson J.K., Salvage B. and Sharpley W.A., "Electric strength of transformer oil for large electrode areas", Proc. IEE, Vol 118, 1971, p 338.
  2. McGrath P.B., and Nelson J.K., "Optical studies of pre-breakdown events in liquid dielectrics", Proc IEE, Vol 124, 1977, p 183.
  3. Sabuni H. and Nelson J.K., "The electric strength of co-polymers", J. Mats. Sci., Vol 12, 1977, p 2435.
  4. Nelson J.K. and Rakowski R.T., "Synchronous vacuum interruption", Proc IEE, Vol 126, 1979, p 182.
  5. Nelson J.K. and Hashad I.F.M., "Evidence for cavitation in fluorocarbon fluids subjected to alternating elctric fields", J. Phys. D., Vol 9, 1976, p 203.
  6. Nelson J.K., "Additives for enhancing corona stabilization in electronegative gases", US Patent # 4410456, 1983
  7. Nelson J.K., "Breakdown strength of solids", Engineering Dielectrics, Vol 2A, Chapter 5, ASTM, 1983 (book)
  8. Salasoo L., Nelson J.K., and Schwabe R.J., "Simulation and measurement of corona for electrostatic pulse powered precipitators", J. Appl. Phys., Vol 58, 1985, p 2949.
  9. Theodossiou G., Nelson J.K., Lee M.J. and Odell G.M., "The influence of elctrohydrodynamic motion of the breakdown of dielectric liquids", J. Phys. D., Vol 21, 1988, p 45.
  10. Nelson J.K. and Salasoo L., "Impact of pulse energization on electrostatic precipitator performance", Trans IEEE on Elect. Ins., Vol 22, 1987, p 657.
  11. Reckleff J.G., Nelson J.K., Musil R.J. and Wenger S., "Characterization of fast rise-time transients when energizing large 13.2 kV motors", Trans IEEE on Pwr. Del., Vol PD-2, 1988, p 623.
  12. Nelson J.K. and Lee M.J., "Tandem chamber charge density monitor", Trans. IEEE on Elect. Ins., Vol EI-25, 1990, p 399.
  13. Kim Y.J. and Nelson J.K., "Assessment of deterioration in epoxy/mica machine insulation", Trans. IEEE on Elect. Ins., Vol EI-27, 1992, p 1026.
  14. Nelson J.K., "Dielectric fluids in motion", Electrical Insulation, IEEE, Vol 10, 1994, p 16.
  15. Lee Y-S., Nelson J.K., Scarton H.A., Teng D. and Azizi-Ghannad S., "An acoustic diagnostic technique for use with electric machine insulation", Trans. IEEE on Diel. & Elect. Ins., Vol DEI-1, 1994, p 1994.
  16. Brubaker M.A. and Nelson J.K., "A parametric study of streaming electrification in a full-scale core-form transformer winding using a network-based model", IEEE Trans, Vol. PWD-15, 2000, pp 1188-92.
  17. Nelson J.K. and Hu Y., “Nanocomposite dielectrics - properties and implications”, J. Phys. D (Appl. Phys.), Vol 38, 2005 pp 213-222.
  18. Roy M., Nelson J.K., MacCrone R.K., Schadler L.S., Reed C.W., Keefe R. and Zenger W., “Polymer nanocomposite dielectrics – the role of the interface”, Trans. IEEE, Vol. DEI-12, 2005, pp 629-43 and p 1273.
  19. Schadler L.S., Nelson J.K., Calebrese C., Travelpiece A., and Schweickart D., "High temperature breakdown strength and voltage endurance characterization of nanofilled polyamideimide", Trans. IEEE, Vol. DEI-19, 2012, pp 2090-2101
  20. Wang Z., Nelson J.K., Schadler L.S., Hillborg H., and Zhao S., "Graphene oxide filled nanocomposite with novel electrical and dielectric properties" , Advanced Materials, Vol. 24, 2012, pp 3134-3137
  21. Virtanen S., Krentz T. M., Nelson J.K., Schadler L.S., Bell M., Benicewicz B., Hilborg H., and Zhoub S., "Dielectric Breakdown Strength of Epoxy Bimodal-Polymer-Brush-Grafted Core Functionalized Silica Nanocomposite", Trans. IEEE, Vol. DEI-21(2), 2014, pp 563-570
  22. Schadler L.S. and Nelson J.K. "Polymer Nanodielectrics - Short History and Future Perspective", J. App Phys., Vol. 128, Issue 12, 2020

The following is a selection of recent publications in Scopus. J. Keith Nelson has 160 indexed publications in the subjects of Engineering, Materials Science, Physics and Astronomy.

Linda S. Schadler, J. Keith Nelson
Journal of Applied Physics
, 128
, 2020
Shaohua Li, Xidong Liang, Aditya Prasad, Linda S. Schadler, J. Keith Nelson, Yanfeng Gao
Annual Report - Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena, CEIDP
, 2018-October
, 2018
, pp.22-25
J. Keith Nelson, Michael Goodman, Linda S. Schadler, Brian Benicewicz, Atri Rungta, Chris Calebrese, Steve Eckroad
2018 IEEE 2nd International Conference on Dielectrics, ICD 2018
, 2018
Ling Zhang, Mohammad M. Khani, Timothy M. Krentz, Yanhui Huang, Yuanxiang Zhou, Brian C. Benicewicz, J. Keith Nelson, Linda S. Schadler
Applied Physics Letters
, 110
, 2017
Timothy Krentz, Mohammad M. Khani, Michael Bell, Brian C. Benicewicz, J. Keith Nelson, Su Zhao, Henrik Hillborg, Linda S. Schadler
Journal of Applied Polymer Science
, 134
, 2017
J. Keith Nelson, Yanhui Huang, Timothy M. Krentz, Linda S. Schadler, Jerzy Dryzek, Brian C. Benicewicz, Michael Bell
Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Properties and Applications of Dielectric Materials
, 2015-October
, 2015
, pp.40-43
Timothy M. Krentz, Yanhui Huang, J. Keith Nelson, Linda S. Schadler, Michael Bell, Brian Benicewicz, Su Zhao, Henrik Hillborg
2014 IEEE Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena, CEIDP 2014
, 2014
, pp.643-646
Yanhui Huang, Timothy M. Krentz, J. Keith Nelson, Linda S. Schadler, Yang Li, He Zhao, L. Catherine Brinson, Michael Bell, Brian Benicewicz, Ke Wu, Curt M. Breneman
2014 IEEE Conference on Electrical Insulation and Dielectric Phenomena, CEIDP 2014
, 2014
, pp.748-751
David Burow, J. Keith Nelson, S. Salon, Jan Stein
Proceedings - 2014 International Conference on Electrical Machines, ICEM 2014
, 2014
, pp.1894-1900
Xiaofeng Su, Brian C. Riggs, Minoru Tomozawa, J. Keith Nelson, Douglas B. Chrisey
Journal of Materials Chemistry A
, 2
, 2014
, pp.18087-18096

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