Doped ZnO layers deposited by low-pressure chemical vapour deposition technique have been studied for their use as transparent contact layers for thin-film silicon solar cells. Surface roughness of these ZnO layers is related to their light-scattering capability; this is shown to be of prime importance to enhance the current generation in thin-film silicon solar cells. Surface roughness has been tuned over a large range of values, by varying thickness and/or doping concentration of the ZnO layers. A method is proposed to optimize the light-scattering capacity of ZnO layers, and the incorporation of these layers as front transparent conductive oxides for p-i-n thin-film microcrystalline silicon solar cells is studied. © 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.