A mathematical model has been developed for calculation of cut-off size and fractional efficiencies in cyclone separators, by taking into account the effects of flow, particle and geometrical parameters, and acceleration assuming that the mixture of fluid and particles is homogenous, and acceleration diminishes depending on the friction and geometry. Collection efficiency curves and cut-off size values predicted by the proposed model showed a good agreement with experiments over a wide range of inlet velocities for different types of cyclones. Comparison of the obtained results with semi empirical models available in literature also indicated that the present model may be used successfully for determination of the performance of a tangential inlet cyclone. Analyses of the effects of various parameters reveals that, in addition to flow and geometrical parameters, surface friction, vortex length and flow regimes play an important role on cyclone performance especially in small cyclones. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.