This report presents a novel synthesis method of alumina nanofibers at moderate conditions in aqueous systems through a surfactant-directed crystal growth process. In the presence of polyethylene oxide (PEO) surfactants, boehmite nanofibers of about 3 nm thick and 30-60 nm long formed from aluminium hydrate colloids. During the subsequent heating, the surfactant was evaporated and boehmite nanofibers were converted into γ-alumina nanofibers. The function of the PEO surfactant and the formation mechanism of the nanofibers are discussed. Alumina nanofibers are an ideal structural reinforcement for various nanocomposite materials. They are potential adsorbents with high adsorption capacity. Furthermore, their unique structure exhibits strong resistance to heating at high temperatures. The BET surface area of a typical sample after heating at 1200°C is as high as 68 m2/g. This makes the material very promising as excellent substrates for catalysts of high thermal stability.