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The luminescence excitation spectra, luminescence spectra and the nanosecond-scale decay kinetics were studied. The ZnO and ZnO:Al nanopowders were prepared by vaporization-condensation in a solar furnace using different raw powders: commercial, hydrothermal and those obtained by plasma synthesis. Exciton-phonon as well as exciton-exciton interaction processes in nanopowders, a bulk crystal and ZnO ceramics were studied and compared. The fast decay and low afterglow intensity of ZnO nanopowders and ceramics support these materials for scintillators.