We have investigated the effect of substrate temperature on the growth rate and properties of nanocrystalline diamond thin films prepared by microwave plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition on (100) Si from a 1% methane (CH4) precursor in argon (Ar). In previous work we have shown that the carbon dimer C2 is the dominant growth species for this CH4/Ar system without the addition of molecular hydrogen. In the present work, the apparent activation energy for this growth process from C2 was determined from a standard Arrhenius-type analysis of the growth rate data for substrate temperatures between 500 and 900 °C. The measured value of 5.85±0.438 kcal/mol (0.254±0.019 eV/atom) is shown to be in close agreement with the results of recent modeling studies of the energetics of C2 addition to the diamond (110)–(1×1):H surface. These results have important implications for low-temperature diamond coating of nonrefractory materials such as glasses. © 1998 American Institute of Physics.