In theoretical physics, supergravity (supergravity theory; SUGRA for short) is a modern field theory that combines the principles of supersymmetry and general relativity; this is in contrast to non-gravitational supersymmetric theories such as the Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model. Supergravity is the gauge theory of local supersymmetry. Since the supersymmetry (SUSY) generators form together with the Poincaré algebra a superalgebra, called the super-Poincaré algebra, supersymmetry as a gauge theory makes gravity arise in a natural way.
Like any field theory of gravity, a supergravity theory contains a spin-2 field whose quantum is the graviton. Supersymmetry requires the graviton field to have a superpartner. This field has spin 3/2 and its quantum is the gravitino. The number of gravitino fields is equal to the number of supersymmetries.
The first model of 4-dimensional supergravity (without this denotation) was formulated by Dmitri Vasilievich Volkov and Vyacheslav A. Soroka in 1973, emphasizing the importance of spontaneous supersymmetry breaking for the possibility of a realistic model. The minimal version of 4-dimensional supergravity (with unbroken local supersymmetry) was constructed in detail in 1976 by Dan Freedman, Sergio Ferrara and Peter van Nieuwenhuizen. In 2019 the three were awarded a special Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the discovery. The key issue of whether or not the spin 3/2 field is consistently coupled was resolved in the nearly simultaneous paper, by Deser and Zumino, which independently proposed the minimal 4-dimensional model. It was quickly generalized to many different theories in various numbers of dimensions and involving additional (N) supersymmetries. Supergravity theories with N>1 are usually referred to as extended supergravity (SUEGRA). Some supergravity theories were shown to be related to certain higher-dimensional supergravity theories via dimensional reduction (e.g. N=1, 11-dimensional supergravity is dimensionally reduced on T7 to 4-dimensional, ungauged, N=8 Supergravity). The resulting theories were sometimes referred to as Kaluza–Klein theories as Kaluza and Klein constructed in 1919 a 5-dimensional gravitational theory, that when dimensionally reduced on a circle, its 4-dimensional non-massive modes describe electromagnetism coupled to gravity.
mSUGRA means minimal SUper GRAvity. The construction of a realistic model of particle interactions within the N = 1 supergravity framework where supersymmetry (SUSY) breaks by a super Higgs mechanism carried out by Ali Chamseddine, Richard Arnowitt and Pran Nath in 1982. Collectively now known as minimal supergravity Grand Unification Theories (mSUGRA GUT), gravity mediates the breaking of SUSY through the existence of a hidden sector. mSUGRA naturally generates the Soft SUSY breaking terms which are a consequence of the Super Higgs effect. Radiative breaking of electroweak symmetry through Renormalization Group Equations (RGEs) follows as an immediate consequence. Due to its predictive power, requiring only four input parameters and a sign to determine the low energy phenomenology from the scale of Grand Unification, its interest is a widely investigated model of particle physics
One of these supergravities, the 11-dimensional theory, generated considerable excitement as the first potential candidate for the theory of everything. This excitement was built on four pillars, two of which have now been largely discredited:
Finally, the first two results each appeared to establish 11 dimensions, the third result appeared to specify the theory, and the last result explained why the observed universe appears to be four-dimensional.
The initial excitement over 11-dimensional supergravity soon waned, as various failings were discovered, and attempts to repair the model failed as well. Problems included:
Some of these difficulties could be avoided by moving to a 10-dimensional theory involving superstrings. However, by moving to 10 dimensions one loses the sense of uniqueness of the 11-dimensional theory.
Initial excitement about the 10-dimensional theories, and the string theories that provide their quantum completion, died by the end of the 1980s. There were too many Calabi–Yaus to compactify on, many more than Yau had estimated, as he admitted in December 2005 at the 23rd International Solvay Conference in Physics. None quite gave the standard model, but it seemed as though one could get close with enough effort in many distinct ways. Plus no one understood the theory beyond the regime of applicability of string perturbation theory.
There was a comparatively quiet period at the beginning of the 1990s; however, several important tools were developed. For example, it became apparent that the various superstring theories were related by "string dualities", some of which relate weak string-coupling - perturbative - physics in one model with strong string-coupling - non-perturbative - in another.
Then the second superstring revolution occurred. Joseph Polchinski realized that obscure string theory objects, called D-branes, which he discovered six years earlier, equate to stringy versions of the p-branes known in supergravity theories. String theory perturbation didn't restrict these p-branes. Thanks to supersymmetry, p-branes in supergravity gained understanding well beyond the limits of string theory.
Armed with this new nonperturbative tool, Edward Witten and many others could show all of the perturbative string theories as descriptions of different states in a single theory that Witten named M-theory. Furthermore, he argued that M-theory's long wavelength limit, i.e. when the quantum wavelength associated to objects in the theory appear much larger than the size of the 11th dimension, need 11-dimensional supergravity descriptors that fell out of favor with the first superstring revolution 10 years earlier, accompanied by the 2- and 5-branes.
Therefore, supergravity comes full circle and uses a common framework in understanding features of string theories, M-theory, and their compactifications to lower spacetime dimensions.
The term "low energy limits" labels some 10-dimensional supergravity theories. These arise as the massless, tree-level approximation of string theories. True effective field theories of string theories, rather than truncations, are rarely available. Due to string dualities, the conjectured 11-dimensional M-theory is required to have 11-dimensional supergravity as a "low energy limit". However, this doesn't necessarily mean that string theory/M-theory is the only possible UV completion of supergravity; supergravity research is useful independent of those relations.
Before we move on to SUGRA proper, let's recapitulate some important details about general relativity. We have a 4D differentiable manifold M with a Spin(3,1) principal bundle over it. This principal bundle represents the local Lorentz symmetry. In addition, we have a vector bundle T over the manifold with the fiber having four real dimensions and transforming as a vector under Spin(3,1). We have an invertible linear map from the tangent bundle TM[which?] to T. This map is the vierbein. The local Lorentz symmetry has a gauge connection associated with it, the spin connection.
The following discussion will be in superspace notation, as opposed to the component notation, which isn't manifestly covariant under SUSY. There are actually many different versions of SUGRA out there which are inequivalent in the sense that their actions and constraints upon the torsion tensor are different, but ultimately equivalent in that we can always perform a field redefinition of the supervierbeins and spin connection to get from one version to another.
In 4D N=1 SUGRA, we have a 4|4 real differentiable supermanifold M, i.e. we have 4 real bosonic dimensions and 4 real fermionic dimensions. As in the nonsupersymmetric case, we have a Spin(3,1) principal bundle over M. We have an R4|4 vector bundle T over M. The fiber of T transforms under the local Lorentz group as follows; the four real bosonic dimensions transform as a vector and the four real fermionic dimensions transform as a Majorana spinor. This Majorana spinor can be reexpressed as a complex left-handed Weyl spinor and its complex conjugate right-handed Weyl spinor (they're not independent of each other). We also have a spin connection as before.
The supervierbein and spin connection are real in the sense that they satisfy the reality conditions
The covariant exterior derivative as defined over supermanifolds needs to be super graded. This means that every time we interchange two fermionic indices, we pick up a +1 sign factor, instead of -1.
The presence or absence of R symmetries is optional, but if R-symmetry exists, the integrand over the full superspace has to have an R-charge of 0 and the integrand over chiral superspace has to have an R-charge of 2.
Unlike the case for flat superspace, adding a constant to either the Kähler or superpotential is now physical. A constant shift to the Kähler potential changes the effective Planck constant, while a constant shift to the superpotential changes the effective cosmological constant. As the effective Planck constant now depends upon the value of the chiral superfield X, we need to rescale the supervierbeins (a field redefinition) to get a constant Planck constant. This is called the Einstein frame.
N=8 Supergravity is the most symmetric quantum field theory which involves gravity and a finite number of fields. It can be found from a dimensional reduction of 11D supergravity by making the size of 7 of the dimensions go to zero. It has 8 supersymmetries which is the most any gravitational theory can have since there are 8 half-steps between spin 2 and spin -2. (A graviton has the highest spin in this theory which is a spin 2 particle). More supersymmetries would mean the particles would have superpartners with spins higher than 2. The only theories with spins higher than 2 which are consistent involve an infinite number of particles (such as string theory and higher-spin theories). Stephen Hawking in his A Brief History of Time speculated that this theory could be the Theory of Everything. However, in later years this was abandoned in favour of string theory. There has been renewed interest in the 21st century with the possibility that this theory may be finite.
Higher-dimensional SUGRA is the higher-dimensional, supersymmetric generalization of general relativity. Supergravity can be formulated in any number of dimensions up to eleven. Higher-dimensional SUGRA focuses upon supergravity in greater than four dimensions.
The number of supercharges in a spinor depends on the dimension and the signature of spacetime. The supercharges occur in spinors. Thus the limit on the number of supercharges cannot be satisfied in a spacetime of arbitrary dimension. Some theoretical examples in which this is satisfied are:
The supergravity theories that have attracted the most interest contain no spins higher than two. This means, in particular, that they do not contain any fields that transform as symmetric tensors of rank higher than two under Lorentz transformations. The consistency of interacting higher spin field theories is, however, presently a field of very active interest.