A new type of water-soluble ruthenium sensitizers incorporating imidazolium counterions, denoted [DMPI]2 -Ru and [DMHI]2 -Ru, has been developed, which can be efficiently adsorbed onto TiO2 photoanodes in aqueous solution. Owing to the good thermal stability of imidazolium, [DMPI]2 -Ru adsorbed on TiO2 has a higher decomposition temperature than N719 dye [di(tetrabutylammonium) cis-di(thiocyanato)bis(2,2'-bipyridine-4,4'-dicarboxylato)ruthenium(II)]. When using organic solvent-based I- /I3- electrolytes, solars cell based on [DMPI]2 -Ru-sensitized TiO2 in water show high power conversion efficiencies (PCE) of up to 10.2 %, which is higher than that of N719 (9.9 %) under the common conditions for dye sensitization in organic solvent. [DMHI]2 -Ru, with poorer water solubility than [DMPI]2 -Ru, gives a smaller dye-adsorption amount on TiO2 and thus a lower PCE of 9.4 %. From the viewpoint of safety and environmental impact, the fabrication of dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) by using water as solvent is undoubtedly a preferable strategy. Although the [DMPI]2 -Ru-based device fabricated by using water as the solvent for both the dye-sensitization process and the electrolyte gives a relatively low efficiency, it provides a promising approach for the practical application of DSSCs.