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Elemental composition of current automotive braking materials and derived air emission factors

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Author: Hulskotte, J.H.J. · Roskam, G.D. · Denier van der Gon, H.A.C.
Source:Atmospheric Environment , December, 99, 436-445
Identifier: 517039
doi: doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2014.10.007
Keywords: Emission · Brake pads · Brake discs · Heavy metals · Iron · Copper · Non-exhaust emissions · Energy Efficiency · Energy / Geological Survey Netherlands · Earth / Environmental · CAS - Climate, Air and Sustainability · ELSS - Earth, Life and Social Sciences


Wear-related PM emissions are an important constituent of total PM emissions from road transport. Due to ongoing (further) exhaust emission reduction wear emissions may become the dominant PM source from road transport in the near future. The chemical composition of the wear emissions is crucial information to assess the potential health relevance of these PM emissions. Here we provide an elemental composition profile of brake wear emissions as used in the Netherlands in 2012. In total, 65 spent brake pads and 15 brake discs were collected in car maintenance shops from in-use personal cars vehicles and analyzed with XRF for their metal composition (Fe, Cu, Zn, Sn, Al, Si, Zr, Ti, Sb, Cr, Mo, Mn, V, Ni, Bi, W, P, Pb and Co). Since car, engine and safety regulations are not nationally determined but controlled by European legislation the resulting profiles will be representative for the European personal car fleet. The brake pads contained Fe and Cu as the dominant metals but their ratio varied considerably, other relatively important metals were Sn, Zn and Sb. Overall a rather robust picture emerged with Fe, Cu, Zn and Sn together making up about 80–90% of the metals present in brake pads. Because the XRF did not give information on the contents of other material such as carbon, oxygen and sulphur, a representative selection of 9 brake pads was further analyzed by ICP-MS and a carbon and sulphur analyzer. The brake pads contained about 50% of non-metal material (26% C, 3% S and the remainder mostly oxygen and some magnesium). Based on our measurements, the average brake pad profile contained 20% Fe, 10% Cu, 4% Zn and 3% Sn as the dominant metals. The brake discs consisted almost entirely of metal with iron being the dominant metal (>95%) and only traces of other metals (<1% for individual metals). Non-metal components in the discs were 2–3% Silicon and, according to literature, ∼3% carbon. The robust ratio between Fe and Cu as found on kerbsides has been used to estimate the contribution of brake pads and brake discs to total brake wear. Based on this approach our hypothesis is that 70% of the brake wear originates from the discs and only 30% from the brake pads.