Independently from its actual nature, dark energy would need to have a strong negative pressure in order to explain the observed acceleration in the expansion rate of the universe.
According to General Relativity, the pressure within a substance contributes to its gravitational attraction for other things just as its mass density does. This happens because the physical quantity that causes matter to generate gravitational effects is the Stress-energy tensor, which contains both the energy (or matter) density of a substance and its pressure and viscosity.
In the Friedmann-Lemaître-Robertson-Walker metric, it can be shown that a strong constant negative pressure in all the universe causes an acceleration in universe expansion if the universe is already expanding, or a deceleration in universe contraction if the universe is already contracting. More exactly, the second derivative of the universe scale factor, , is positive if the equation of state of the universe is such that w < − 1 / 3.
This accelerating expansion effect is sometimes labeled "gravitational repulsion", which is a colorful but possibly confusing expression. In fact a negative pressure does not influence the gravitational interaction between masses - which remains attractive - but rather alters the overall evolution of the universe at the cosmological scale, typically resulting in the accelerating expansion of the universe despite the attraction among the masses present in the universe.