In this paper, we investigate the mechanics of a nanoscaled gigahertz oscillator comprising a carbon molecule oscillating within the centre of a uniform concentric ring or bundle of carbon nanotubes. Two kinds of oscillating molecules are considered, which are a carbon nanotube and a C60 fullerene. Using the Lennard-Jones potential and the continuum approach, we obtain a relation between the bundle radius and the radii of the nanotubes forming the bundle, as well as the optimum bundle size which gives rise to the maximum oscillatory frequency for both the nanotube–bundle and the C60–bundle oscillators. While previous studies in this area have been undertaken through molecular dynamics simulations, this paper emphasizes the use of applied mathematical modelling techniques, which provides considerable insight into the underlying mechanisms of the nanoscaled oscillators. The paper presents a synopsis of the major results derived in detail by the present authors (Cox et al 2007 Proc. R. Soc. A 464 691–710 and Cox et al 2007 J. Phys. A: Math. Theor. 40 13197–208).