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We investigate amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) thin film solar cells in the n-i-p or substrate configuration that allows the use of nontransparent and flexible substrates such as metal or plastic foils such as polyethylene- naphtalate (PEN). A substrate texture is used to scatter the light at each interface, which increases the light trapping in the active layer. In the first part, we investigate the relationship between the substrate morphology and the short circuit current, which can be increased by 20% compared to the case of flat substrate. In the second part, we investigate cell designs that avoid open-circuit voltage (Voc) and fill factor (FF) losses that are often observed on textured substrates. We introduce an amorphous silicon carbide n -layer (n-SiC), a buffer layer at the n/i interface, and show that the new cell design yields high Voc and FF on both flat and textured substrates. Furthermore, we investigate the relation between voids or nanocrack formations in the intrinsic layer and the textured substrate. It reveals that the initial growth of the amorphous layer is affected by the doped layer which itself is influenced by the textured substrate. Finally, the beneficial effect of our optical and electrical findings is used to fabricate a-Si:H solar cell on PEN substrate with an initial efficiency of 8.8% for an i -layer thickness of 270 nm. © 2008 American Institute of Physics.