Optically induced bistable states in metal/tunnel-oxide/semiconductor /MTOS/ junctionsA new switching phenomenon in metal-oxide semiconductor tunnel junction has been discovered. With a sufficiently large negative bias applied to the electrode, incident visible light of intensity greater than about 1 microW/sq cm causes the reverse-biased junction to switch from a low-current to a high-current state. It is believed that hot-electron-induced impact ionization provides the positive feedback necessary for switching, and causes the junction to remain in its high-current state after the optical excitation is removed. The junction may be switched back to the low-current state electrically. The basic junction characteristics have been measured, and a simple model for the switching phenomenon has been developed.