Abstract We report a study on the fabrication and characterization of ultraviolet photodetectors based on ZnO:Al films. Using sol–gel technique, highly c-axis oriented ZnO films with 5 mol% Al doping were deposited on Si(1 1 1) substrates. The photoconductive UV detectors based on ZnO:Al thin films, having a metal–semiconductor–metal (MSM) structure with interdigital (IDT) configuration, were fabricated by using Au as a contact metal. The characteristics of dark and photocurrent of the UV detector and the UV photoresponse of the detector were investigated. The linear current–voltage ( I– V) characteristics under both forward and reverse bias exhibit ohmic metal–semiconductor contacts. Under illumination using monochromatic light with a wavelength of 350 nm, photo-generated current was measured at 58.05 μA at a bias of 6 V. The detector exhibits an evident wide-range spectral responsivity and shows a trend similar to that in transmittance and photoluminescence spectrum.