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Randomly oriented zinc oxide (ZnO) nanowires with different diameters were synthesized on a large scale on silicon substrates through a simple physical evaporation method. The nanowires exhibit stable and uniform electron field emission, and the turn-on field reduces with the diameter decreasing. The perfect field emission ability of the ZnO nanowires may be related to their rough surface and sharp curvature. Considering the efficient synthesis method and their excellent field emission characteristics, the authors expect that the randomly oriented ZnO nanowire films could have a promising industrial prospect as economic emitters for flat panel displays.