In this paper, we developed a new kind of ionic polymer metal composite (IPMC) actuator by doping sulfonated carbon nanotube (SCNT) into Nafion matrix to overcome some major drawbacks, such as low output force and short air-operation time, which restrict applications of conventional Nafion IPMC actuators. Firstly, SCNT was synthesized by coupled reaction of multi-walled carbon nanotubes and azo compounds and then doped into Nafion matrix by casting method. Subsequently, several key parameters of the SCNT-reinforced Nation matrix, water uptake ratio and equivalent stiffness, were revealed and the inner morphology of the membranes were observed by scanning electron microscopy. Finally, the effects of the SCNT on the electromechanical properties of IPMC actuators, especially the actuating performance, were evaluated experimentally and analyzed systematically. The results showed that SCNT was evenly dispersed in Nafion matrix and a small amount of SCNT could improve the performance of IPMC actuators significantly.