The concept of a nanowire solar cell with photon-harvesting shells is presented. In this architecture, organic molecules which absorb strongly in the near infrared where silicon absorbs weakly are coupled to silicon nanowires (SiNWs). This enables an array of 7-μm -long nanowires with a diameter of 50 nm to absorb over 85% of the photons above the bandgap of silicon. The organic molecules are bonded to the surface of the SiNWs forming a thin shell. They absorb the low-energy photons and subsequently transfer the energy to the SiNWs via Förster resonant energy transfer, creating free electrons and holes within the SiNWs. The carriers are then separated at a radial p-n junction in a nanowire and extracted at the respective electrodes. The shortness of the nanowires is expected to lower the dark current due to the decrease in p-n junction surface area, which scales linearly with wire length. The theoretical power conversion efficiency is 15%. To demonstrate this concept, we measure a 60% increase in photocurrent from a planar silicon-on-insulator diode when a 5 nm layer of poly[2-methoxy-5-(2′ -ethyl-hexyloxy)-1,4-phenylene vinylene is applied to the surface of the silicon. This increase is in excellent agreement with theoretical predictions. © 2009 American Institute of Physics.