How Cyclonic Separation Works

Grease Be Gone: Other Uses for Cyclonic Separation

All of this sounds complicated, but cyclonic separators are so simple that a handy person can make one at home. Many industries use them to remove pollutants from the air, gas and water. The devices come in all shapes and sizes. Here's a sample.

  • Cyclone grease separators: Many industrial and professional kitchens rely on cyclonic separation technology to remove tiny (greater than 5 nanometers) grease particles from the air. In these huge kitchens, air laden with grease flies into the machine. Inside the separator, cyclonic activity pushes the air toward the walls of a filter. The grease drains to the bottom of the unit, while clean air pours back into the room [source: Jeven].
  • Horizontal dust collectors: To remove dust and other pollutants from manufacturing plants, engineers will often mount large-scale dust collectors above the factory floor. One type of industrial-strength cyclonic separator is the high-efficiency horizontal dust collector system. Most cyclonic separators are vertical in orientation and depend on gravity to bring dust to the collection hopper. Horizontal collection systems, however, rely on a secondary airstream to direct particulates to the bin. When the dirty air enters the horizontal collector, it begins its whirling dance, rotating toward the walls of the collector. A second, powerful airstream enters the separation chamber through a series of nozzles. The rushing air captures the collected particles before they reach the interior walls of the unit and carries the debris directly to the hopper [source: Eggert].
  • Multiple-cyclone separators: If one cyclonic separator is good, then multiple separators have to be better, right? You bet. They are known as multiclones. In such a device, dust-filled air flows through a common intake where a series of small-diameter cyclonic separators removes the particulates. Multiclones create a greater centrifugal force than a typical cyclonic separator, which allows for better separation [source:].
  • Secondary airflow separators: Like the horizontal dust collectors, some cyclonic separators have secondary airflow systems, which increase the speed of the cyclone, making dust collection more efficient [source:].
  • Hydrocyclonic separators: These cyclonic devices remove solid particles from fast-moving water. The faster the water's speed, the greater the centrifugal force. The spinning cyclone of water tosses the particles to the outer edge of the spinning vortex. The particles hit the cyclone's wall and slide to a collection bin [source: Con-Serv Manufacturing].

So, back to my cyclonic vacuum cleaner. It was amazing. The Dyson sucked up the dirt, the dust mites, the dog hair and the dried cat vomit like nothing I had ever seen before. I watched amazed as the gods of physics ripped the debris outward from the spinning vortex, forcing the dirty mélange to the bottom of the cylinder. No fuss, no muss, no bags, no dirt. Cyclonic separation rules!

Author's Note: How Cyclonic Separation Works

Please don't think I'm weird, but I'm one of these guys that enjoys vacuuming. I do it once a day, maybe twice in the winter. I have to. The cats and dogs, not to mention the woodstove, leave dust, hair and dander all over the place. Plus, it gives me time to fashion my articles and books in my head. As for cleaning, cyclonic technology seems to get the job done. Plus, I love to see the dirt spin in the cylinder.

Related Articles


  • Con-Serv Manufacturing. "Hydrocylonic/Particle Separation." (Feb. 15, 2013)
  • Eggert, Bart. "High-Efficiency Horizontal Dust Collection." Feb. 8, 2011. Power Bulk Solids. (Feb. 15, 2013)
  • Jeven. "How cyclone grease separators work." (Feb. 15, 2013)
  • "Cyclone Dust Collectors." (Feb. 15, 2013)
  • University of Delaware. (Feb. 14, 2013)
  • Wacharawichanant, Sirirat. "Fluid Flow: Cyclone Separators." Silpakorn University. (Feb. 14, 2013)