A series of activated carbon fibers (ACFs) and ammonia-treated ACFs prepared from phenolic fiber precursors have been studied to elucidate the role of pore size, pore volume, and pore surface chemistry on adsorption of sulfur dioxide and its catalytic conversion to sulfuric acid. As expected, the incorporation of basic functional groups into the ACFs was shown as an effective method for increasing adsorption of sulfur dioxide. The adsorption capacity for dry SO2 did not follow specific trends; however the adsorption energies calculated from the DR equation were found to increase linearly with nitrogen content for each series of ACFs. Much higher adsorption capacities were achieved for SO2 in the presence of oxygen and water due to its catalytic conversion to H2SO4. The dominant factor for increasing adsorption of SO2 from simulated flue gas for each series of fibers studied was the weight percent of basic nitrogen groups present. In addition, the adsorption energies calculated for dry SO2 were shown to be linearly related to the adsorption capacity of H2SO4 from this flue gas for all fibers. It was shown that optimization of this parameter along with the pore volume results in higher adsorption capacities for removal of SO2 from flue gases. ?? 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.