Finding the optimal structure to enhance light trapping in thin film silicon solar cells has attracted much attention in the previous decades. However, because of problems in integrating theory and experiment, there are only few comprehensive contributions that provide guidelines for the optimal design of such structures. In this work, a realistic thin film solar cell with almost conformal layers based on a one-dimensional metallic grating back-reflector is investigated through experiment and theory. The external quantum efficiency of the cell is obtained with the aid of both theory and experiment for different angles of incidence and in both polarizations to validate the computational method and to show the impact of guided mode excitation. Different substrate shapes that are compatible with solar cell fabrication are then considered and the effect of geometrical parameters on the short circuit current density of the device is investigated. Calculations show that among the investigated shapes, trinagular gratings with a very sharp slope in one side, so called sawtooth gratings, are the most promising one-dimensional grating for light trapping. Furthermore, the role of material property is discussed specifically in the back-reflector by simulating aluminum and silver backreflectors. It is shown that the blue response of the solar cells is similar almost regardless of the back-reflector material but their red response is viable to change due to variation in resonant properties of the structure.© (2011) COPYRIGHT Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers (SPIE). Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.