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We study the high-rate deposition of microcrystalline silicon in a large-area plasma-enhanced chemical-vapor-deposition (PECVD) reactor operated at 40.68 MHz, in the little-explored process conditions of high-pressure and high-silane concentration and depletion. Due to the long gas residence time in this process, the silane gas is efficiently depleted using moderate feed-in power density, thus facilitating up-scaling of the process to large surfaces. As observed in more traditional deposition processes, the deposition rate and performance of device-quality material are limited by the inter-electrode gap of the reactor. We significantly increase the cell performances by reducing this gap. X-ray diffractometry (XRD) and secondary ion mass spectroscopy (SIMS) are used to characterize the microcrystalline material deposited in the modified reactor at a rate of 1 nm/s. Comparison with a microcrystalline process at a low deposition rate demonstrates that the crystallographic orientation of the absorbing layer of the cell and the concentrations of contaminants are strongly correlated and dependent on the process. We use microcrystalline cells with absorber layer grown at a rate of 1 nm/s integrated as bottom cells in amorphous-microcrystalline (micromorph) tandem solar cells using the superstrate configuration. We report an initial efficiency of 10.8% (9.6% stabilized) for a tandem cell with 1.2 cm2 surface. Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.