The origin of anomalously large p-n junction leakage current in Si is investigated. The leakage has strong electric field dependence and weak temperature dependence, and therefore cannot be explained by either generation-recombination current or diffusion current. It may be explained by the local Zener effect at local enhancement of the electric field around small precipitates in the depletion layer. Supposing a spherical precipitate, the electric field will be enhanced as much as 1.3 times for a SiO2 precipitate and 3 times for a metal precipitate. The leakage features are explained by the electric field dependence and the temperature dependence of the local Zener probability. A new approach to reduce the local Zener probability by controlling the profile of the electric field is proposed, and the validity of the approach is confirmed by direct experiment and by improvement in the refresh operation of DRAM cells.
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