Gold films were deposited on quartz‐crystal microbalances by decomposing C7H7F6O2Au (dimethyl gold hexafluoroacetylacetonate) with 2–10‐keV Xe+, Kr+, Ar+, Ne+, or He+ ion beams. The number of molecules decomposed per incident ion (i.e., the total decomposition yield) was determined as a function of ion mass and energy. The total decomposition yield increases with increasing ion mass and ion energy, and is approximately proportional to the nuclear stopping power. A binary collision model and a thermal spike model are developed that relate the energy deposited by the ion, at the substrate surface, to the total number of molecules decomposed. Both models predict total decomposition yields that are in reasonable agreement with the experimental measurements; however, the variation of total yield with changes in ion mass and energy are best described by the binary collision model. The success of both models demonstrates that the energy deposited into the substrate surface through the ion‐solid interaction is responsible for the decomposition of adsorbed molecules.