Backreacted axion field ranges in string theory

Florent Baume, Eran Palti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Abstract: String theory axions are interesting candidates for fields whose potential might be controllable over super-Planckian field ranges and therefore as possible candidates for inflatons in large field inflation. Axion monodromy scenarios are setups where the axion shift symmetry is broken by some effect such that the axion can traverse a large number of periods potentially leading to super-Planckian excursions. We study such scenarios in type IIA string theory where the axion shift symmetry is broken by background fluxes. In particular we calculate the backreaction of the energy density induced by the axion vacuum expectation value on its own field space metric. We find universal behaviour for all the compactifications studied where up to a certain critical axion value there is only a small backreaction effect. Beyond the critical value the backreaction is strong and implies that the proper field distance as measured by the backreacted metric increases at best logarithmically with the axion vev, thereby placing strong limitations on extending the field distance any further. The critical axion value can be made arbitrarily large by the choice of fluxes. However the backreaction of these fluxes on the axion field space metric ensures a precise cancellation such that the proper field distance up to the critical axion value is flux independent and remains sub-Planckian. We also study an axion alignment scenario for type IIA compactifications on a twisted torus with four fundamental axions mixing to leave an axion with an effective decay constant which is flux dependent. There is a choice of fluxes for which the alignment parameter controlling the effective decay constant is unconstrained by tadpoles and can in principle lead to an arbitrarily large effective decay constant. However we show that these fluxes backreact on the fundamental decay constants so as to precisely cancel any enhancement leaving a sub-Planckian effective decay constant.

Original languageEnglish
Article number43
JournalJournal of High Energy Physics
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cosmology of Theories beyond the SM
  • Flux compactifications
  • Superstring Vacua

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics


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