A method for synthesizing silica nanofibers using sound waves is provided. The method includes providing a solution of polyvinyl pyrrolidone, adding sodium citrate and ammonium hydroxide to form a first mixture, adding a silica-based compound to the solution to form a second mixture, and sonicating the second mixture to synthesize a plurality of silica nanofibers having an average cross-sectional diameter of less than 70 nm and having a length on the order of at least several hundred microns. The method can be performed without heating or electrospinning, and instead includes less energy intensive strategies that can be scaled up to an industrial scale. The resulting nanofibers can achieve a decreased mean diameter over conventional fibers. The decreased diameter generally increases the tensile strength of the silica nanofibers, as defects and contaminations decrease with the decreasing diameter.