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Zinc oxide (ZnO) and yttrium-doped ZnO nanoparticles with particle size in the nanometer range have been successfully synthesized by the alkali precipitation method. The nanoparticle size and morphology have been investigated by X-ray diffraction (XRD), scanning electron microscope (SEM), and transmission electron microscope (TEM). The average particle size of Y-doped ZnO nanoparticles is about 17–29 nm. The absorption and photoluminescence (PL) spectra of the undoped and doped ZnO nanoparticles were also investigated. The optical band gap of ZnO nanoparticles can be tuned from 3.27 to 3.40 eV with increasing yittrium doping levels from 0 to 5%. The nanoparticles gave two emission peaks, one at around 376 nm and the other at 500 nm.