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The erase and retention characteristics of MONOS, MANOS and BE-SONOS devices are examined in detail in order to determine their mechanisms. The erase transient current (J) is extracted and plotted against the tunnel oxide electric field (ETUN). Our results show that the erase speed ranking is BE-SONOS > MANOS > MONOS. The difference in erase speed comes from the different erase mechanisms of these devices. The retention characteristics are also compared and discussed.