Sulfur has a high specific capacity of 1673 mAh/g as lithium battery cathodes, but its rapid capacity fading due to polysulfides dissolution presents a significant challenge for practical applications. Here we report a hollow carbon nanofiber-encapsulated sulfur cathode for effective trapping of polysulfides and demonstrate experimentally high specific capacity and excellent electrochemical cycling of the cells. The hollow carbon nanofiber arrays were fabricated using anodic aluminum oxide (AAO) templates, through thermal carbonization of polystyrene. The AAO template also facilitates sulfur infusion into the hollow fibers and prevents sulfur from coating onto the exterior carbon wall. The high aspect ratio of the carbon nanofibers provides an ideal structure for trapping polysulfides, and the thin carbon wall allows rapid transport of lithium ions. The small dimension of these nanofibers provides a large surface area per unit mass for Li2S deposition during cycling and reduces pulverization of electrode materials due to volumetric expansion. A high specific capacity of about 730 mAh/g was observed at C/5 rate after 150 cycles of charge/discharge. The introduction of LiNO3 additive to the electrolyte was shown to improve the Coulombic efficiency to over 99% at C/5. The results show that the hollow carbon nanofiber-encapsulated sulfur structure could be a promising cathode design for rechargeable Li/S batteries with high specific energy. © 2011 American Chemical Society.