In this study, pure ZnO, CeO2 and ZnO/CeO2 nanocomposites were synthesized using a thermal decomposition method and subsequently characterizhttp://www.nature.com/articles/srep31641ed using different standard techniques. High-resolution X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy measurements confirmed the oxidation states and presence of Zn2+, Ce4+, Ce3+ and different bonded oxygen species in the nanocomposites. The prepared pure ZnO and CeO2 as well as the ZnO/CeO2nanocomposites with various proportions of ZnO and CeO2 were tested for photocatalytic degradation of methyl orange, methylene blue and phenol under visible-light irradiation. The optimized and highly efficient ZnO/CeO2 (90:10) nanocomposite exhibited enhanced photocatalytic degradation performance for the degradation of methyl orange, methylene blue, and phenol as well as industrial textile effluent compared to ZnO, CeO2 and the other investigated nanocomposites. Moreover, the recycling results demonstrate that the ZnO/CeO2 (90:10) nanocomposite exhibited good stability and long-term durability. Furthermore, the prepared ZnO/CeO2 nanocomposites were used for the electrochemical detection of uric acid and ascorbic acid. The ZnO/CeO2 (90:10) nanocomposite also demonstrated the best detection, sensitivity and performance among the investigated materials in this application. These findings suggest that the synthesized ZnO/CeO2(90:10) nanocomposite could be effectively used in various applications.