Using Au precoatings has been observed to significantly enhance the field emission properties of diamondlike carbon (DLC) films deposited on Si substrates. The electron emission can be turned on at a low field as 7 V/μm and a large emission current density as 2000 μA/cm2 can be obtained at 20 V/μm applied field. However, preannealing the Au-coated Si substrates at 500 °C for 30 min is necessary to achieve such a performance. Microscopic examination on surface and cross-sectional morphologies of the DLC/Au/Si films using atomic force microscopy and scanning electron microscopy, respectively, in conjunction with the elemental depth profile examination of these films using secondary ion mass spectroscopy, indicated that substantial interdiffusion between DLC, Au, and Si layers has occurred. Such kind of reaction is proposed to lower the resistance for electrons to transport across the interfaces and, thereafter, enhances the field emission properties of the DLC/Au/Si films. © 1997 American Institute of Physics.