Nanowires have been considered for a number of applications in nanometrology. In such a context, we have explored the possibility of using ultrathin twisted nanowires as torsion nanobalances to probe forces and torques at molecular level with high precision, a nanoscale system analogous to the Coulomb's torsion balance electrometer. In order to achieve this goal, we performed a first-principles investigation on the structural and electronic properties of twisted silicon nanowires, in their pristine and hydrogenated forms. The results indicated that wires with pentagonal and hexagonal cross-sections are the thinnest stable silicon nanostructures. Additionally, all wires followed a Hooke's law behavior for small twisting deformations. Hydrogenation leads to spontaneous twisting, but with angular spring constants considerably smaller than the ones for the respective pristine forms. We observed considerable changes on the nanowire electronic properties upon twisting, which allows to envision the possibility of correlating the torsional angular deformation with the nanowire electronic transport. This could ultimately allow a direct access to measurements on interatomic forces at molecular level.
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