A study of the laser ablation of a ZnO target has been carried out in vacuum, by using a Nd:Yag laser with a pulse duration of 3 ns, a wavelength of 532 nm and a maximum pulse energy of 150 mJ. The measurements of ablation yields, crater profiles and fast CCD plasma imaging allowed the evaluation of the plasma density. Time-of-flight (TOF) measurements have been also utilized to monitor the ion emission by using a special ion collector placed along the normal to the target surface. Coulomb-Boltzmann-shifted ion energy distributions have been obtained depending on the ions charge states. The plasma temperature was evaluated by such ion energy distributions of the experimental data. A special attention has been devoted to the ion acceleration processes due to the high electric fields generated inside the non-equilibrium plasma. The characterization of the latter and the deposition of ZnO thin films are correlated and discussed.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.