Thermographic monitoring of scum accumulation beneath floating covers

Yue Ma, Francis Rose, Leslie Wong, Benjamin Steven Vien, Thomas Kuen, Nik Rajic, Jayantha Kodikara, Wing Kong Chiu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Large sheets of high-density polyethene geomembrane are used as floating covers on some of the wastewater treatment lagoons at the Melbourne Water Corporation’s Western Treatment Plant. These covers provide an airtight seal for the anaerobic digestion of sewage and allow for harvesting the methane-rich biogas, which is then used to generate electricity. There is a potential for scum to develop under the covers during the anaerobic digestion of the raw sewage by microorganisms. Due to the nature of the operating environment of the lagoons and the vast size (450 m × 170 m) of these covers, a safe non-contact method to monitor the development and movement of the scum is preferred. This paper explores the potential of using a new thermographic approach to identify and monitor the scum under the covers. The approach exploits naturally occurring variations in solar intensity as a trigger for generating a transient thermal response that is then fitted to an exponential decay law to determine a cooling constant. This approach is investigated experimentally using a laboratory-scale test rig. A finite element (FE) model is constructed and shown to reliably predict the experimentally observed thermal transients and cooling constants. This FE model is then set up to simulate progressive scum accumulation with time, using a specified scumberg geometry and a stepwise change in thermal properties. The results indicate a detectable change in the cooling constant at different locations on the cover, thereby providing a quantitative basis for characterising the scum accumulation beneath the cover. The practical application and limitations of these results are briefly discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4857
Number of pages16
JournalRemote Sensing
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2021


  • Finite element analysis
  • Geomembrane
  • Scum
  • Solar radiation
  • Structural health monitoring
  • Temperature prediction
  • Thermal analysis
  • Wastewater treatment

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