## Author(s)

Chen, Zu-Cheng, Liu, Lang## Abstract

The null energy condition (NEC) is a cornerstone of general relativity, and its violation could leave observable imprints in the cosmic gravitational wave spectrum. Theoretical models suggest that NEC violations during inflation can amplify the primordial tensor power spectrum, leading to distinct features in the stochastic gravitational wave background (SGWB). In this work, we search for these NEC-violating signatures in the SGWB using data from Advanced LIGO and Advanced Virgo's first three observing runs. Our analysis reveals no statistically significant evidence of such signals, allowing us to place stringent upper limits on the tensor power spectrum amplitude, $P_{T,2}$, during the second inflationary stage. Specifically, we find that $P_{T,2} \lesssim 0.15$ at a $95\%$ confidence level. Notably, this upper limit is consistent with constraints derived from pulsar timing array observations, reinforcing the hypothesis that NEC violations during inflation could explain the signal detected by pulsar timing arrays. Our findings contribute to a deeper understanding of the early Universe and highlight the potential of current and future gravitational wave experiments in probing the physics of inflation and NEC violations.

## Figures

Posterior distributions for the model parameters $\boldsymbol{\theta}_{\mathrm{GW}} \equiv (n_T, f_c, P_{T,2})$. The contours represent the $1\sigma$, $2\sigma$, and $3\sigma$ confidence levels in the two-dimensional plots.

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