Disclosed herein are processes for preparing carbon fibers, comprising: sulfonating a polymer fiber with a sulfonating agent that is fuming sulfuric acid, sulfuric acid, chlorosulfonic acid, or a combination thereof; treating the sulfonated polymer with a heated solvent, wherein the temperature of the heated solvent is at least 95.degree. C.; and carbonizing the resulting product by heating it to a temperature of 501-3000.degree. C. Carbon fibers prepared according to these methods are also disclosed herein.
STATEMENT OF GOVERNMENT INTEREST
 This invention was made under a NFE-10-02991 between The Dow Chemical Company and UT-Batelle, LLC, operating and management Contractor for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory operated for the United States Department of Energy. The Government has certain rights in this invention.