Silicon dominates contemporary solar cell technologies1. But when absorbing photons, silicon (like other semiconductors) wastes energy in excess of its bandgap2. Reducing these thermalization losses and enabling better sensitivity to light is possible by sensitizing the silicon solar cell using singlet exciton fission, in which two excited states with triplet spin character (triplet excitons) are generated from a photoexcited state of higher energy with singlet spin character (a singlet exciton)3–5. Singlet exciton fission in the molecular semiconductor tetracene is known to generate triplet excitons that are energetically matched to the silicon bandgap6–8. When the triplet excitons are transferred to silicon they create additional electron–hole pairs, promising to increase cell efficiencies from the single-junction limit of 29 per cent to as high as 35 per cent9. Here we reduce the thickness of the protective hafnium oxynitride layer at the surface of a silicon solar cell to just eight angstroms, using electric-field-effect passivation to enable the efficient energy transfer of the triplet excitons formed in the tetracene. The maximum combined yield of the fission in tetracene and the energy transfer to silicon is around 133 per cent, establishing the potential of singlet exciton fission to increase the efficiencies of silicon solar cells and reduce the cost of the energy that they generate.
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