We have investigated the effects of oxygen plasma treatment on the UV detection properties of ultrathin ( ∼ 20-nm-thick) ZnO epitaxial films. Highly epitaxial ZnO films grown on sapphire were exposed to oxygen-radical-rich, inductively coupled plasma, and then their UV detection properties were characterized at 325 nm wavelength using a photoconductor structure. The oxygen plasma treatment is found to dramatically enhance the UV detection properties of ZnO, reducing the decay time constant (to below 50 μs) and increasing the on/off ratio of photocurrent (to over 1000) with high UV responsivity (1–10 A/W). This result, in conjunction with the microstructural and electrical characterization results, indicates that the plasma treatment efficiently suppresses the chemisorption sites (primarily the oxygen deficiency sites) on surface and also the oxygen vacancies in ZnO, therefore results in major reduction of the chemisorption effects and the dark current, respectively. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.