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The thermal oxidation of submicron metallic Zn particles was studied as a method to form nanostructured ZnO films. The particles used for this work were characterized by electron microscopy, x ray diffraction, and thermal analysis to evaluate the Zn-ZnO core shell structure, surface morphology, and oxidation characteristics. Significant nanostructural changes were observed for films annealed to 400 °C or higher, where nanoflakes, nanoribbons, nanoneedles, and nanorods were formed as a result of stress induced fractures arising in the ZnO outer shell due to differential thermal expansion between the metallic Zn core and the ZnO shell. Mass transport occurs through these defects due to the high vapor pressure for metallic Zn at temperatures above 230 °C, whereupon the Zn vapor rapidly oxidizes in air to form the ZnO nanostructures. The Zn particles were also incorporated into zinc indium oxide precursor solutions to form thin film transistor test structures to evaluate the potential of forming nanostructured field effect sensors using simple solution processing.