This critical review presents several aspects related to the use of copper as a main component in brake pads in road vehicles. The compositions of these materials are attracting increasing interest and concern due to the relative contribution of wear products to particulate matter emissions in the environment as a result of braking action even though there has been a reduction in exhaust products from internal combustion engines. We review the data on the main wear mechanisms in brake systems and highlight the positive role of copper. However, similar to other heavy metal emissions, even the release of copper into the atmosphere may have important environmental and health effects. Thus, several replacement strategies are being pursued, and the positive and negative features will be critically reviewed. Additionally, the future perspectives in materials development will be discussed.
Keywords: Atmospheric pollution; Brake pad; Copper-free brakes; Particulate matter; Wear debris characterization.
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