The adhesion quality of amorphous hydrogenated carbon films (a-C:H) on semiconductor substrates depends to a large degree on the properties of the interface. The present work complements the photoemission results of the preceding paper with a detailed investigation of the atomic structure of the a-C:H/Si and a-C:H/GaAs interfaces. We show that the method of substrate cleaning and the deposition parameters affect the thickness of the interfacial layer and the interface roughness. The carbide compounds that form in the interfacial layer are found to be amorphous and we present evidence for the precipitation of metallic Ga at the a-C:H/GaAs interface. Finally, we have determined the extent of atomic intermixing in the interfacial region and compare our results with different mechanisms of adhesion. © 1989 Springer-Verlag.