The current losses due to parasitic absorption in the indium tin oxide (ITO) and amorphous silicon (a-Si:H) layers at the front of silicon heterojunction solar cells are isolated and quantified. Quantum efficiency spectra of cells in which select layers are omitted reveal that the collection efficiency of carriers generated in the ITO and doped a-Si:H layers is zero, and only 30% of light absorbed in the intrinsic a-Si:H layer contributes to the short-circuit current. Using the optical constants of each layer acquired from ellipsometry as inputs in a model, the quantum efficiency and short-wavelength current loss of a heterojunction cell with arbitrary a-Si:H layer thicknesses and arbitrary ITO doping can be correctly predicted. A 4 cm$^2$ solar cell in which these parameters have been optimized exhibits a short-circuit current density of 38.1 mA/cm$^2$ and an efficiency of 20.8%.
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