Positive charging of thermal SiO2 layers on (1 0 0)Si and (0 0 0 1)6H-, 4H-SiC related to trapping of protons is studied using low-energy proton implantation into the oxide, and compared to the trapping of holes generated by 10-eV photons. Proton trapping has an initial probability close to 100% and shows little sensitivity to the annealing-induced oxygen deficiency of SiO2. In contrast to protons, hole trapping in as-grown SiO2 shows a much lower efficiency which increases upon oxide annealing, in qualitative correlation with the higher density of O(3)equivalent toSi. defects (E' centers) detected by electron spin resonance after hole injection. Despite these differences, the neutralization of positive charges induced by holes and protons has the same cross-section, and in both cases is accompanied by liberation of atomic H suggesting that protons account for positive charge in both cases. The rupture of Si-O bonds in the oxide observed upon proton injection suggests, as a first basic step, the bonding of a proton to a bridging oxygen atom in SiO2 network. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.