Constraints on scalar and tensor spectra from Neff

Ido Ben-Dayan, Brian Keating, David Leon, Ira Wolfson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


At the linear level, the gravitational wave (GW) spectrum predicted by inflation, and many of its alternatives, can have arbitrarily small amplitude and consequently an unconstrained tilt. However, at second order, tensor fluctuations are sourced by scalar fluctuations that have been measured in the cosmic microwave background (CMB). These second order fluctuations generically produce a minimum amount of tensor perturbations corresponding to a tensor-to-scalar ratio of r∼ 10-6. Inverting this relationship yields a bound on the tensor tilt sourced by scalar fluctuations. Since this induced GW spectrum depends on the scalar spectrum, we derive a new indirect bound that involves all scales of the scalar spectrum based on CMB observations. This bound comes from the constraint on the number of effective relativistic degrees of freedom, Neff. We estimate the bound using current data, and the improvements expected by future CMB experiment. The bound forces the running and running of running to conform to standard slow-roll predictions of α,β (ns-1)2 where α≡ d ns/d k and β ≡ d ns 2/d k2, improving on current CMB measurements by an order of magnitude. This bound has further implications for the possibility of primordial black holes as dark matter candidates. Performing a likelihood analysis including this new constraint, we find that positive α and/or β are disfavored at least at 1σ. Even using conservative analysis, β + 0.074 α>8.6× 10-4 are ruled out at 3σ. Finally, using bounds on the fractional energy density of gravitational waves today obtained by LIGO and the Pulsar Timing Array, we obtain a bound on the primordial scalar spectrum on these scales and give forecast for future measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7
JournalJournal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics
Issue number6
StatePublished - 4 Jun 2019


  • Cosmological parameters from CMBR
  • Gravitational waves / sources
  • Gravitational waves / theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics


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