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Optical measurements on ZnS nanoclusters have been carried out to investigate surface effects along with quantum size effects. ZnS nanocrystals have been synthesized in the range of 1.5–2.5 nm, using different chemical methods as well as electronic passivating procedures. The size of nanoparticles has been estimated from empirical pseudopotential calculations. We have obtained a significantly narrower size distribution of ZnS nanocrystals than reported in earlier published results. We observed band gap luminescence in mercaptoethanol capped ZnS nanocrystals. Effects of various defect levels on the luminescent behavior of ZnS nanoparticles have been examined © 2000 American Institute of Physics.