Fr.: champ inflaton
A hypothetical → scalar field that provides a theoretical basis for → inflation in the early → Big Bang history of the → Universe. The inflaton field would fill space with the same energy at every point. In general, the scalar field can vary with time and space, though to a first approximation everywhere in the Universe will have the same value at any time. The field has a particle associated with it, called → inflaton, just as the → electromagnetic field is associated with the → photon. The inflaton field is characterized also by a → negative pressure that would yield a tremendous → repulsive gravity during a brief lapse of time. In the earliest moments of the Universe, space is uniformly filled with an inflaton field, whose value places it higher up on its → potential energy curve. The inflaton's → potential energy would drop in a tiny fraction of a second, on the order of 10-35 seconds. And yet, during that brief instant, space would expand by a colossal factor, of at least 1030.