We present an improved process for free-standing monocrystalline silicon (FMS) thin film solar cells developed at IMEC. We demonstrate that a thick annealed porous layer, or the quasi-monocrystalline silicon (QMS) layer, incorporated into a two-side contacted thin film solar cell structure does not produce any considerable series resistance. The best cell so far exhibits a conversion efficiency of 12.6% with a fill factor of 75.7% for an active layer thickness of 20 mu m. This cell process includes emitter formation by phosphorous diffusion, silicon nitride deposition for antireflection coating and front surface passivation, and 50-mu m-thick annealed porous layer remained on the rear. Despite the expected small reduction in solar cell's efficiency, maintaining the porous layer in the device structure renders the processing and handling of the thin FMS film much easier, thus leading to a better yield and up-scalability. PC1D simulations show that a thick QMS layer can lessen the short circuit current density in some degree, depending on the active layer quality, thickness, optical confinement, etc., while the other cell parameters remain substantially unvaried; a 10% to 15% higher process yield is expected to be sufficient to reach a break-even between the two processes. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V All rights reserved.