To obtain a suitable sputtering target for depositing transparent conducting Al-doped ZnO (AZO) films by using direct current (DC) magnetron sputtering, this study investigates the possibility of using atmosphere controlled sintering of Al(2)O(3) mixed ZnO powders to prepare highly conductive ceramic AZO targets Experimental results show that a gas mixture of Ar and CO could produce a sintered target with resistivity in the range of 2.23 x 10(-4) Omega cm. The fairly low resistivity was mainly achieved by the formation of both aluminum substitution (Al(Zn)) and oxygen vacancy (V(O)). thus greatly increasing the carrier concentration. Compared to usual air sintered target, the thin film deposited by the Ar + CO sintered target exhibited lower film resistivity and more uniform spatial distribution of resistivity A film resistivity as low as 6.8 x 10(-4) Omega cm was obtained under the sputtering conditions of this study. ((C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.