Si thin films with different structures were deposited by plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD), and characterized via Raman spectroscopy and Fourier transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy. The passivation effect of such different Si thin films on crystalline Si surface was investigated by minority carrier lifetime measurement via a method, called microwave photoconductive decay (mu PCD), for the application in HIT (heterojunction with intrinsic thin-layer) solar cells. The results show that amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) has a better passivation effect due to its relative higher H content, compared with microcrystalline (mu c-Si) silicon and nanocrystalline silicon (nc-Si). Further, it was found that H atoms in the form of Si-H bonds are more preferred than those in the form of Si-H-2 bonds to passivate the crystalline Si surface. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.