In this study, the optimum material parameters capable of providing high efficiencies close to the detailed balance limit are determined for intermediate band solar cells. A diffusion model, including the overlap effect between absorption coefficients, is used during the calculations for the first time. It is obtained that to achieve high efficiencies close to the detailed balance limit; the effective density of state value, NCV, should be higher than 1017 cm−3 and the carrier mobility should be larger than 200 cm2/Vs, where the light concentration should not be higher than nearly 1000 sun. Besides, it is found out that the optimum intermediate band level and the base width depend on the mobility and effective density of state values. So they need to be optimized according to the material parameters. The effect of overlap between absorption coefficients on the performance of intermediate band solar cells is also investigated. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.