Theory of charging and charge transport in “intermediate” thickness dielectrics and its implications for characterization and reliability

Sambit Palit, Purdue University
Muhammad A. Alam, Purdue University

Date of this Version



Journal of Applied Physics: Volume 111, Issue 5


Copyright (2012) American Institute of Physics. This article may be downloaded for personal use only. Any other use requires prior permission of the author and the American Institute of Physics. The following article appeared in Journal of Applied Physics: Volume 111, Issue 5 and may be found at The following article has been submitted to/accepted by [Name of Journal]. Copyright (2012) Sambit Palit and Muhammad A. Alam. This article is distributed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.


Thin film dielectrics have broad applications, and the performance degradation due to charge trapping in these thin films is an important and pervasive reliability concern. It has been presumed since the 1960s that current transport in intermediate-thickness (IT) oxides (∼10–100 nm) can be described by Frenkel-Poole (FP) conduction (originally developed for ∼mm-thick films) and algorithms based on the FP theory can be used to extract defect energy levels and charging-limited lifetime. In this paper, we review the published results to show that the presumption of FP-dominated current in IT oxides is incorrect, and therefore, the methods to extract trap-depths to predict lifetime should be revised. We generalize/adapt the bulk FP current conduction model by including additional tunneling-based current injection. Steady state characteristics are obtained by a flux balance between contacts and the IT oxide. An analytical approximation of the generalized FP model yields a steady state leakage current J ∝ exp(−B√E)(1 − C√E − D/E), where B, C, and D are material-specific constants. This reformulation provides a new algorithm for extracting defect levels to predict the corresponding charging limited device lifetime. The validity and robustness of the new algorithm are confirmed by simulations and published experimental data.


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