Inhomogeneous initial data and small-field inflation
We consider the robustness of small-field inflation in the presence of scalar field inhomo- geneities. Previous numerical work has shown that if the scalar potential is flat only over a narrow in- terval, such as in commonly considered inflection-point models, even small-amplitude inhomogeneities present at the would-be onset of inflation at τ = τi can disrupt the accelerated expansion. In this paper, we parametrise and evolve the inhomogeneities from an earlier time τIC at which the initial data were imprinted, and show that for a broad range of inflationary and pre-inflationary models, inflection-point inflation withstands initial inhomogeneities. We consider three classes of perturbative pre-inflationary solutions (corresponding to energetic domination by the scalar field kinetic term, a relativistic fluid, and isotropic negative curvature), and two classes of exact solutions to Einstein’s equations with large inhomogeneities (corresponding to a stiff fluid with cylindrical symmetry, and anisotropic negative curvature). We derive a stability condition that depends on the Hubble scales H(τi) and H(τIC), and a few properties of the pre-inflationary cosmology. For initial data imprinted at the Planck scale, the absence of an inhomogeneous initial data problem for inflection-point inflation leads to a novel, lower limit on the tensor-to-scalar ratio.