We investigate the physical properties of a portion of the gate stack of an ultra-scaled complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) device. The effects of point defects, such as oxygen vacancy, oxygen, and aluminum interstitials at the HfO2/TiN interface, on the effective work function of TiN are explored using density functional theory. We compute the diffusion barriers of such point defects in the bulk TiN and across the HfO2/TiN interface. Diffusion of these point defects across the HfO2/TiN interface occurs during the device integration process. This results in variation of the effective work function and hence in the threshold voltage variation in the devices. Further, we simulate the effects of varying the HfO2/TiN interface stoichiometry on the effective work function modulation in these extremely-scaled CMOS devices. Our results show that the interface rich in nitrogen gives higher effective work function, whereas the interface rich in titanium gives lower effective work function, compared to a stoichiometric HfO2/TiN interface. This theoretical prediction is confirmed by the experiment, demonstrating over 700 meV modulation in the effective work function. © 2013 AIP Publishing LLC.