Exploring the parameter space of warm inflation
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Warm inflation is an implementation of exponential early-universe expansion that incorporates interactions between the inflaton field and its environment. These interactions allow the inflaton to dissipate some of its energy into other fields, which may then thermalise and form a radiation bath. A radiation bath present throughout inflation changes the inflaton dynamics and introduces thermal fluctuations that enhance the spectrum of primordial density perturbations. In the models we consider, the inflaton decays into the light particles of the radiation bath via heavy mediator particles. Warm inflation is subject to a complicated set of constraints which typically requires a large number of such mediator fields to be included in the model. The motivation for this work was to use the parametric dependence of the full low-temperature dissipation coefficient to uncover regimes where this number can be reduced. Previous studies have examined primarily the low-momentum regime of the dissipation coefficient, where inflaton dissipation occurs via off-shell mediator particles. In the low-temperature regime, the production of on-shell mediators in the so-called pole regime suffers from Boltzmann suppression and was therefore thought to be negligible. It has been found, however, that the exponential suppression can be compensated by a sufficiently small effective coupling between the mediator fields and the light fields. In this thesis, we present a numerical code that scans the parameter space of warm-inflation models including both the low-momentum and the pole contribution to the dissipation coefficient. We generate random values for the parameters of the model and the initial conditions of the field and the radiation density; we then solve the full equations of motion for the radiation density and the inflaton field using the general low-temperature dissipation coefficient. Our search includes chaotic, hybrid, and hilltop models, each of which inhabits different regions of warm-inflation parameter space. Our main finding is that the pole contribution to inflaton dissipation significantly extends the parameter ranges accessible to warm inflation. Specifically, we can achieve 50 e-folds of inflation and a spectral index compatible with Planck data with fewer mediator fields and smaller coupling constants. For instance, while low-momentum-dominated dissipation typically requires O(10⁶) mediator fields, we find pole-dominated solutions with as few as O(10⁴) for the quadratic hilltop potential. It is clear that the inclusion of the pole contribution opens up interesting model-building possibilities and that the parametric dependence of the full dissipation coefficient holds promise for achieving even greater reductions of the field content.