Silver nanoparticles embedded in a dielectric material have strong scattering properties under light illumination, due to localized surface plasmons. This effect is a potential way to achieve light trapping in thin-film solar cells. In this paper we study light scattering properties of nanoparticles on glass and ZnO, and on silver coated with ZnO, which represent the back reflector of a solar cell. We find that large nanoparticles embedded in the dielectric at the back contact of amorphous silicon solar cells lead to a remarkable increase in short circuit current of 20% compared to co-deposited cells without nanoparticles. This increase is strongly correlated with the enhanced cell absorption in the long wavelengths and is attributed to localized surface plasmons. We also discuss the electrical properties of the cells. Copyright # 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.