The novel ligand 1-(2,4,6-trimethylbenzyl)-2-(2'-pyridyl)benzimidazole and its heteroleptic ruthenium (II) complex were synthesized. The complex was characterized using spectroscopic methods and cyclic voltammetry. Charge-separation was investigated within nanoporous titanium dioxide employing surface photovoltage spectroscopy. The performance of the ruthenium complex as a charge transfer photosensitizer in nanocrystalline, titanium dioxide-based, dye sensitized solar cells was studied under standard AM 1.5 sunlight using an electrolyte consisting of 0.6 M1-butyl-3-methyl-imidazolium iodide, 0.1 M lithium iodide, 0.05 M iodine and 0.5 M 4-tert-butyl pyridine in 3-methoxy propyonitrile. The novel complex had a photocurrent density of 9.47 mA cm(-2), 600 mV open circuit potential and 0.60 fill factor yielding an efficiency of 3.4%. The photovoltaic performance of the colorant was compared with that of cis-bis(isothiocyanato)(2,2'-bipyridyl-4,4'-dicarboxylato) (2,2'-bipyridyl-4,4'-di-nonyl) ruthenium(II): both compounds exhibited similar efficiency, while the fill factor value was higher for the novel dye. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.