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This paper presents a detailed study of the nonuniform bipolar conduction phenomenon under electrostatic discharge (ESD) events in single-finger NMOS transistors and analyzes its implications for the design of ESD protection for deep-submicron CMOS technologies. It is shown that the uniformity of the bipolar current distribution under ESD conditions is severely degraded depending on device finger width (W) and significantly influenced by the substrate and gate-bias conditions as well. This nonuniform current distribution is identified as a root cause of the severe reduction in ESD failure threshold current for the devices with advanced silicided processes. Additionally, the concept of an intrinsic second breakdown triggering current (It2i) is introduced, which is substrate-bias independent and represents the maximum achievable ESD failure strength for a given technology. With this improved understanding of ESD behavior involved in advanced devices, an efficient design window can be constructed for robust deep submicron ESD protection.