Field-emission cathodes containing arrays of carbon nanotubes coated with diamond or diamondlike carbon (DLC) are undergoing development. Multiwalled carbon nanotubes have been shown to perform well as electron field emitters. The idea underlying the present development is that by coating carbon nanotubes with wideband gap materials like diamond or DLC, one could reduce effective work functions, thereby reducing threshold electric-field levels for field emission of electrons and, hence, improving cathode performance. To demonstrate feasibility, experimental cathodes were fabricated by (1) covering metal bases with carbon nanotubes bound to the bases by an electrically conductive binder and (2) coating the nanotubes, variously, with diamond or DLC by plasma-assisted chemical vapor deposition. In tests, the threshold electric-field levels for emission of electrons were reduced by as much as 40 percent, relative to those of uncoated nanotube cathodes. Coating with diamond or DLC could also make field emission-cathodes operate more stably by helping to prevent evaporation of carbon from nanotubes in the event of overheating of the cathodes. Cathodes of this type are expected to be useful principally as electron sources for cathode-ray tubes and flatpanel displays.