We investigate the thermalization process of the Universe after inflation to determine the evolution of the effective temperature. The time scale of thermalization is found to be so long that it delays the evolution of the effective temperature, and the resulting maximal temperature of the Universe can be significantly lower than the one obtained in the literature. Our results clarify the finite density corrections to the effective potential of a scalar field and also processes of heavy particle production. In particular, we find that the maximum temperature of the Universe may be at most electroweak scale if the reheating temperature is as low as O(1) MeV, which implies that the electroweak symmetry may be marginally restored. In addition, it is noticeable that the dark matter may not be produced from thermal plasma in such a low reheating scenario, since the maximum temperature can be smaller than the conventional estimation by five orders of magnitude. We also give implications to the Peccei-Quinn mechanism and the Affleck-Dine baryogenesis.
- cosmological phase transitions
- particle physics - cosmology connection
- physics of the early universe