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Magnetic tunnel junctions (MTJs) were fabricated using nitrogen-mixed oxygen plasma (O2:N2=10:1). From the measurements of time-dependent dielectric breakdown (TDDB) under a constant voltage stress, the reliability of MTJs with an oxy-nitride barrier was investigated and compared with that of MTJs fabricated using pure oxygen plasma. The reliability of MTJs with an oxy-nitride barrier is much improved with the incorporation of nitrogen to oxidation process. In addition, the reliability of the oxy-nitride barrier is gradually enhanced with increasing oxy-nitridation time even after the time exceeds the optimal value. It is believed that the enhancement is due to the bonding of nitrogen to electron traps both in the oxide barriers and at the bottom interface. The characteristics of the bonding were examined by XPS measurements, which reveal a nitrogen 1s peak in Al-N bond. The lifetime of the two barriers was also estimated for comparison.