Silicon nitride films have been deposited on p-type Si (100) by mercury-sensitized photo-chemical vapor deposition (photo-CVD) method varying deposition pressure and substrate temperature. Energy dispersive X-ray fluorescence spectra of the samples show that the incorporation of mercury in the films, if any, is below 20 ppm. Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy studies show the incorporation of oxygen and hydrogen in all the films, which is a function of the deposition parameters. Higher substrate temperature favors the formation of Si-H bonds and reverse is the case for the formation of SiN-H bonds. The sample deposited at low temperature (170 °C) shows the presence of less unreacted silicon (4%) in comparison to the sample (12.5% unreacted silicon) deposited at higher deposition temperature (250 °C), but the variation of pressure shows no significant change in terms of the unreacted silicon. The incorporated hydrogen and oxygen passivate surface defects thereby influencing interface electronic state densities (Dit) and fixed insulating charges (Qss). © 2003 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.