Using the full power of the cosmic microwave background to probe axion dark matter

Renée Hložek, David J.E. Marsh*, Daniel Grin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Citations (Scopus)


The cosmic microwave background (CMB) places stringent constraints on models of dark matter (DM), and on the initial conditions of the Universe. The full Planck data set is used to test the possibility that some fraction of the DM is composed of ultralight axions (ULAs). This represents the first use of CMB lensing to test the ULA model. We find no evidence for a ULA component in the mass range 10-33 ≤ ma ≤ 10-24 eV. We put percent-level constraints on the ULA contribution to the DM, improving by up to a factor of two compared using temperature anisotropies alone. Axion DM also provides a low-energy window on to the physics of inflation through isocurvature perturbations. We perform the first systematic investigation into the parameter space of ULA isocurvature, using an accurate isocurvature transfer function at all ma values. We precisely identify a 'window of co-existence' for 10-25 eV ≤ ma ≤ 10-24 eV where the data allow, simultaneously, a ~10 per cent contribution of ULAs to the DM, and ~1 per cent contributions of isocurvature and tensor modes to the CMB power. ULAs in this window (and all lighter ULAs) are shown to be consistent with a large inflationary Hubble parameter, HI ~ 1014 GeV. The window of co-existence will be fully probed by proposed CMB Stage-IV observations with increased accuracy in the high-ℓ lensing power and low-ℓ E- and B-mode polarizations. If ULAs in the window exist, this could allow for two independent measurements of HI in the CMB using isocurvature, and the tensor contribution to B modes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3063-3085
Number of pages23
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2018


  • Cosmic background radiation
  • Cosmological parameters
  • Cosmology: theory
  • Dark matter


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