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Physical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation, and Cosmology


Department of Physics and Astronomy


A phenomenological model of dark energy that tracks the baryonic and cold dark matter at early times but resembles a cosmological constant at late times is explored. In the transition between these two regimes, the dark energy density drops rapidly as if it were a relic species that freezes out, during which time the equation of state peaks at +1. Such an adjustment in the dark energy density, as it shifts from scaling to potential domination, could be the signature of a trigger mechanism that helps explain the late-time cosmic acceleration. We show that the non-negligible dark energy density at early times, and the subsequent peak in the equation of state at the transition, leave an imprint on the cosmic microwave background anisotropy pattern and the rate of growth of large scale structure. The model introduces two new parameters, consisting of the present-day equation of state and the redshift of the freeze-out transition. A Monte Carlo Markov chain analysis of a ten-dimensional parameter space is performed to compare the model with pre-Planck cosmic microwave background, large scale structure and supernova data and measurements of the Hubble constant. We find that the transition described by this model could have taken place as late as a redshift z ~ 250. We explore the capability of future cosmic microwave background and weak lensing experiments to put tighter constraints on this model. The viability of this model may suggest new directions in dark-energy model building that address the coincidence problem.