The breakdown of thin oxides (7.9-32 nm) subjected to high-field current injection is investigated in this study. The physical mechanism of breakdown is found to be localized field enhancement at the cathode interface due to hole trapping. The source of this hole trapping is believed to be impact ionization in the SiO2. A quantitative model for oxide breakdown based on impact ionization and hole trapping at the cathode is presented and shown to agree well with the experimental J — t and time-to-breakdown (tBD) results. We observe that log tBD varies linearly with 1/Erather than with E as commonly assumed. The field acceleration factor, i.e., the slope of the log tBD versus 1/E plot, is approximately 140 decades per centimeter per megavolt for the 7.9 nm oxide, with approximately 25 percent of this coming from the field dependence of the impact ionization coefficient and the remainder from the Fowler-Nordheim current dependence on 1/E. Based on this model, oxide wearout performance might be improved by process changes that reduce interface hole trapping, such as radiation-hard processing, in addition to the reduction of particulate contamination and crystal defects.