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According to inflation theory, the inflaton is a scalar field[1] that is responsible for cosmic inflation in the very early universe.[2][3] A quantized particle for this field is expected, similar to other quantum fields, called an inflaton. The field provides a mechanism by which a period of rapid expansion from 10−35 to 10−34 seconds after the initial expansion can be generated, forming the universe.

The basic process of inflation consists of three steps:

  • Prior to the expansion period, the inflaton field was at a higher-energy state.
  • Random quantum fluctuations triggered a phase transition whereby the inflaton field released its potential energy as matter and radiation as it settled to its lowest-energy state.
  • This action generated a repulsive force that drove the portion of the universe that is observable to us today to expand from approximately 10−50 metres in radius at 10−35 seconds to almost 1 metre in radius at 10−34 seconds.

The inflaton field's lowest energy state may or may not be a zero energy state. This depends on the chosen potential energy density of the field.

The term Inflaton is a crossover between the word "inflation" and the typical naming style of other quantum fields such as photon, gluon, boson and fermion.

See also[edit]