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The frequently observed dc drain current compression of AlGaN/GaN modulation doped field-effect transistors is associated with partial loss of the two-dimensional electron gas caused by electron trapping. The behavior of the temperature-dependent electron concentration and persistent photoconductivity at low temperature in the AlGaN/GaN modulation doped heterostructure are indicative of the presence of DX centers in the AlGaN layer. Deep-level transient spectroscopy of the drain current reveals carrier trapping with activation energy of 0.28 eV. However, this value appears to be too small to explain the compression of the dc drain current or to attribute these traps to DX centers in AlGaN. © 2001 American Institute of Physics.