Two new metal free sensitizers based on triphenylamine-benzothiadiazole were synthesized and used in dye sensitized solar cells (DSSCs). Electrochemical and optical properties of the dyes were studied by cyclic voltammetry, UV-vis absorption and fluorescence spectroscopy. A red shift was observed by the attachment of a thiophene (MZ-259) instead of a phenylene (MZ-255) bridge. The reverse effect was observed in the electrochemical properties because of the more electron-donating thiophene incorporated into the cyanoacrylic acid as an anchoring-acceptor unit in this system resulted in a higher LUMO level. The charge distribution of the dyes was also proved by DFT calculations using the Spartan10 program with the parameters of B3LYP and 6-31G** basis set. Finally the photovoltaic performances were investigated under standard AM 1.5 illumination with a power of 100 mW/cm(2) using an ionic liquid based electrolyte. The power conversion efficiencies, eta, were increased from 3.16% to 3.81% by using thiophene instead of phenylene as a pi-bridge unit. (C) 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.