:H) thin films have been prepared by plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition of SiH4 and GeH4 and measured during growth using real time spectroscopic ellipsometry. A two-layer virtual interface analysis has been applied to study the structural evolution of Si:H films prepared in multistep processes utilizing alternating intermediate and low H2-dilution material layers, which have been designed to produce predominately amorphous films with a controlled distribution of microcrystalline particles. The compositional evolution of alloy-graded a-Si1−x
:H has been studied as well using similar methods. In each case, depth profiles of microcrystalline content, f
, or Ge content, x, have been extracted. Additionally, real time spectroscopic ellipsometry has been used to monitor post-deposition exposure of a-Si:H, a-Si1−xGex:H, and a-Ge:H films to a hydrogen plasma in situ in order to determine sub-surface amorphous film modification similar to that which would occur when a highly H2-diluted layer is deposited on a layer prepared with lower dilution. These analyses provide guidance for enhanced performance of Si:H based solar cells, through controlled bandgap grading using compositionally graded amorphous binary alloys (a-Si1−xGe
:H) or the incorporation of controlled fractions of microcrystallites into bulk amorphous i-layer materials, and by providing a fundamental understanding of the modification of component layers during the deposition of subsequent layers in multilayer stacks.