Thin films of SiN are well suited as antireflection (AR) coatings for Si solar cells because their optical properties, such as refractive index and absorption coefficient, can be tailored during deposition to match those of Si solar cells. The SiN layers, particularly those deposited by a plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition (PECVD) process, can serve other functions in Si solar-cell fabrication. They can be excellent buffer layers through which the front metal contact can be fired. The PECVD nitridation also introduces H into the Si surface, which diffuses deep into the solar cell and passivates residual impurities and defects during metal-contact firing. The optimization of SiN properties and processing conditions may have conflicting demands based on its multifunctional role. To fully exploit these multiple functions, the SiN processing sequence must be optimized based on the properties of the nitride, the diffusion behavior of H, and the interactions of metal with the SiN/Si composite substrate.