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Failure modes and mechanisms of AlGaN/GaN high-electron-mobility transistors are reviewed. Data from three de-accelerated tests are presented, which demonstrate a close correlation between failure modes and bias point. Maximum degradation was found in "semi-on" conditions, close to the maximum of hot-electron generation which was detected with the aid of electroluminescence (EL) measurements. This suggests a contribution of hot-electron effects to device degradation, at least at moderate drain bias (VDS<30 V). A procedure for the characterization of hot carrier phenomena based on EL microscopy and spectroscopy is described. At high drain bias (VDS>30-50 V), new failure mechanisms are triggered, which induce an increase of gate leakage current. The latter is possibly related with the inverse piezoelectric effect leading to defect generation due to strain relaxation, and/or to localized permanent breakdown of the AlGaN barrier layer. Results are compared with literature data throughout the text.