A spectral beam-splitting architecture is shown to provide an excellent basis for a four junction photovoltaic receiver with a virtually ideal band gap combination. Spectrally selective beam-splitters are used to create a very efficient light trap in form of a 45° parallelepiped. The light trap distributes incident radiation onto the different solar cells with an optical efficiency of more then 90%. Highly efficient solar cells including III–V semiconductors and silicon were fabricated and mounted into the light trapping assembly. An integrated characterization of such a receiver including the measurement of quantum efficiency as well as indoor and outdoor I–V measurements is shown. Moreover, the optical loss mechanisms and the optical efficiency of the spectral beam-splitting approach are discussed. The first experimental setup of the receiver demonstrated an outdoor efficiency of more than 34% under unconcentrated sunlight. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.