Electromechanical actuators based on sheets of single-walled carbon nanotubes were shown to generate higher stresses than natural muscle and higher strains than high-modulus ferroelectrics. Like natural muscles, the macroscopic actuators are assemblies of billions of individual nanoscale actuators. The actuation mechanism (quantum chemical-based expansion due to electrochemical double-layer charging) does not require ion intercalation, which limits the life and rate of faradaic conducting polymer actuators. Unlike conventional ferroelectric actuators, low operating voltages of a few volts generate large actuator strains. Predictions based on measurements suggest that actuators using optimized nanotube sheets may eventually provide substantially higher work densities per cycle than any previously known technology.