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New materials and systems halve particle emissions from braking cars

Road traffic is a major source of particle-based air pollution in cities. It originates from exhaust emissions by internal combustion engines, and from particulate matter produced by wear and tear on brakes, tyres and roads. EU-funded researchers addressed this with breakthrough solutions that cut brake emissions by at least 50 %.

Transport and Mobility icon Transport and Mobility

Despite lower-emission vehicles hitting the roads, one of the sources of highway air pollution remains constant: brake dust particles. According to studies, brake wear ranges between 16 % and 55 % of total mass of particles amongst non-exhaust road traffic emissions in urban environments. These tiny particles could negatively impact the environment and also our health. “Brakes wear out over time and thus produce wear particles. Some of these particles stick to the wheel rim, while some others fall out on the ground or disperse in the air,” says Guido Perricone, material development manager at Brembo, Italy. New materials and systems, lower emissions Aiming to reduce brake particle emissions by 50 %, the EU-funded LOWBRASYS project studied brake emissions and developed new solutions using more durable materials for brake discs and pads, and a particle-capturing system for brakes. The novel brake-disc and pad materials can easily be integrated into existing cars during normal maintenance, while new cars could be fitted with the LOWBRASYS low-emission brake solution from the start. Project researchers developed a ceramic coating for protecting the surface of brake discs and pads. “Tests demonstrated that our coating material is more durable to wear and reduces the total number of particles by about 90 %, while also limits the total mass of particles by 25 %. The discs differ from current technology as they have ceramic coatings on top of conventional cast-iron brake discs,” explains Perricone. In addition, a braking strategy provided by software on board the vehicle allows a 40 % reduction in the number of emitted particles and a 20 % reduction in the overall particulate mass. This is possible by blending the brake action between the front and rear axle to keep the physical parameters triggering the particle emissions as low as possible. Monitoring driver behaviour Project researchers created a smartphone application that allows drivers to see their braking pattern during a journey. The aim is to encourage drivers to brake in a more environmentally friendly way while staying safe. Studies conducted by project researchers have shown that by monitoring their driving behaviour, drivers can reduce particulate matter emissions by 30 % and total number by 50 %; this data can persuade car drivers to be more careful while braking. Brake dust – the next hot environmental issue? Important environmental questions have been answered in the course of the project, and for the first time a scientific reliable approach has been implemented to assess the potential effects of particulate matter from brakes in real-life conditions both with in-silico and in-vitro models. “LOWBRASYS proved an excellent example of fruitful cooperation between industry, academia and research institutions. Our challenging target paved the way for manufacturing a new set of braking products in Europe. This will increase the competitiveness of the countries involved in the project, leading them to develop more eco-friendly solutions for evolving mobility needs. Project innovative technologies are also expected to shape stricter regulations in vehicles,” notes Roberto Vavassori, business developer at Brembo. The end result would be a competitive but eco-friendlier transport industry.


LOWBRASYS, particles, brake disc, pad, coating, brake dust, air pollution, capturing system, ceramic, braking system

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