La Rivista del Nuovo Cimento

Year 2016 - Issue 9 - September

Gravitational waves from inflation

Authors: M. C. Guzzetti, N. Bartolo, M. Liguori, S. Matarrese
DOI: 10.1393/ncr/i2016-10127-1
pp. 399-495
Published online 29 August 2016
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Abstract: The production of a stochastic background of gravitational waves is a fundamental prediction of any cosmological inflationary model. The features of such a signal encode unique information about the physics of the Early Universe and beyond, thus representing an exciting, powerful window on the origin and evolution of the Universe. We review the main mechanisms of gravitational-wave production, ranging from quantum fluctuations of the gravitational field to other mechanisms that can take place during or after inflation. These include e.g. gravitational waves generated as a consequence of extra particle production during inflation, or during the (p)reheating phase. Gravitational waves produced in inflation scenarios based on modified gravity theories and second-order gravitational waves are also considered. For each analyzed case, the expected power spectrum is given. We discuss the discriminating power among different models, associated with the validity/violation of the standard consistency relation between tensor-to-scalar ratio $r$ and tensor spectral index $n_{T}$. In light of the prospects for (directly/indirectly) detecting primordial gravitational waves, we give the expected present-day gravitational radiation spectral energy-density, highlighting the main characteristics imprinted by the cosmic thermal history, and we outline the signatures left by gravitational waves on the Cosmic Microwave Background and some imprints in the Large-Scale Structure of the Universe. Finally, current bounds and prospects of detection for inflationary gravitational waves are summarized.