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The trap distribution inside the oxide layer of a metal–oxide–semiconductor device is studied via the direct tunneling gate current. Effects of traps are incorporated in the Schrödinger’s equation using an imaginary potential term. Different spatial distributions of traps have been considered to obtain a best fit between the simulated and the experimentally measured direct tunneling gate currents. Comparing our simulated current with experimental data, we have determined that the distribution of traps introduced during fabrication can be represented by a Gaussian function with its peak at the gate–electrode/oxide interface. This distribution is found to be independent of the gate–oxide thickness. Our results show that electric-field-induced traps, generated during tunneling, are proportional to the carrier density within the oxide layer and also to the traps introduced during fabrication. © 2002 American Institute of Physics.