High power light emitting diode (LED) arrays have been investigated as excitation sources for long pulse and lock-in thermography. Images of artificial defects in a carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) composite sample are compared, by image contrast signal-to-noise ratio estimates, with those obtained using conventional incandescent flash and lock-in excitation sources. The LED arrays had to be mounted on heat sinks with active cooling in to prevent them exceeding their thermal tolerance. Despite this cooling the LED arrays were still found to emit some IR radiation, although far less than conventional incandescent light sources. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.