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Direct detection of the inflationary gravitational-wave background

American Physical Society
Publication Date
  • Caltech Library Services
  • Astronomy
  • Mathematics


Inflation generically predicts a stochastic background of gravitational waves over a broad range of frequencies, from those accessible with cosmic microwave background (CMB) measurements, to those accessible directly with gravitational-wave detectors, like NASA's Big-Bang Observer (BBO) or Japan's Deci-Hertz Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observer (DECIGO), both currently under study. Here we investigate the detectability of the inflationary gravitational-wave background at BBO/DECIGO frequencies. To do so, we survey a range of slow-roll inflationary models consistent with constraints from the CMB and large-scale structure (LSS). We go beyond the usual assumption of power-law power spectra, which may break down given the 16 orders of magnitude in frequency between the CMB and direct detection, and solve instead the inflationary dynamics for four classes of inflaton potentials. Direct detection is possible in a variety of inflationary models, although probably not in any in which the gravitational-wave signal does not appear in the CMB polarization. However, direct detection by BBO/DECIGO can help discriminate between inflationary models that have the same slow-roll parameters at CMB/LSS scales.

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