ZnO nanowires were grown on silicon substrate by metal-organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) without catalysts. The scanning electron microscopy (SEM) observations along with X-ray diffraction (XRD) results suggest that the ZnO nanowires are single crystals vertically well-aligned to silicon substrate. Room-temperature photoluminescence (PL) measurement reveals strong UV emission and weak green emission, which demonstrates that the nanowires are of good optical properties. The mechanism of the catalyst-free growth of ZnO nanowires on silicon substrate is proposed. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.