Vertically aligned carbon nanotubes were grown at temperatures as low as 120 °C by plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition. A systematic study of the temperature dependence of the growth rate and the structure of the as-grown nanotubes is presented using a C2H2/NH3 system and nickel as the catalyst. The activation energy for the growth rate was found to be 0.23 eV, much less than for thermal chemical vapor deposition (1.2–1.5 eV). This suggests growth occurs by surface diffusion of carbon on nickel. The result could allow direct growth of nanotubes onto low-temperature substrates like plastics, and facilitate the integration in sensitive nanoelectronic devices. © 2003 American Institute of Physics.