Operator algebra

Last updated

In functional analysis, a branch of mathematics, an operator algebra is an algebra of continuous linear operators on a topological vector space, with the multiplication given by the composition of mappings.


The results obtained in the study of operator algebras are phrased in algebraic terms, while the techniques used are highly analytic. [1] Although the study of operator algebras is usually classified as a branch of functional analysis, it has direct applications to representation theory, differential geometry, quantum statistical mechanics, quantum information, and quantum field theory.


Operator algebras can be used to study arbitrary sets of operators with little algebraic relation simultaneously. From this point of view, operator algebras can be regarded as a generalization of spectral theory of a single operator. In general operator algebras are non-commutative rings.

An operator algebra is typically required to be closed in a specified operator topology inside the whole algebra of continuous linear operators. In particular, it is a set of operators with both algebraic and topological closure properties. In some disciplines such properties are axiomized and algebras with certain topological structure become the subject of the research.

Though algebras of operators are studied in various contexts (for example, algebras of pseudo-differential operators acting on spaces of distributions), the term operator algebra is usually used in reference to algebras of bounded operators on a Banach space or, even more specially in reference to algebras of operators on a separable Hilbert space, endowed with the operator norm topology.

In the case of operators on a Hilbert space, the Hermitian adjoint map on operators gives a natural involution, which provides an additional algebraic structure that can be imposed on the algebra. In this context, the best studied examples are self-adjoint operator algebras, meaning that they are closed under taking adjoints. These include C*-algebras, von Neumann algebras, and AW*-algebra. C*-algebras can be easily characterized abstractly by a condition relating the norm, involution and multiplication. Such abstractly defined C*-algebras can be identified to a certain closed subalgebra of the algebra of the continuous linear operators on a suitable Hilbert space. A similar result holds for von Neumann algebras.

Commutative self-adjoint operator algebras can be regarded as the algebra of complex-valued continuous functions on a locally compact space, or that of measurable functions on a standard measurable space. Thus, general operator algebras are often regarded as a noncommutative generalizations of these algebras, or the structure of the base space on which the functions are defined. This point of view is elaborated as the philosophy of noncommutative geometry, which tries to study various non-classical and/or pathological objects by noncommutative operator algebras.

Examples of operator algebras that are not self-adjoint include:

See also

Related Research Articles

In mathematics, especially functional analysis, a Banach algebra, named after Stefan Banach, is an associative algebra A over the real or complex numbers that at the same time is also a Banach space, that is, a normed space that is complete in the metric induced by the norm. The norm is required to satisfy

In mathematics, specifically in functional analysis, a C-algebra is a Banach algebra together with an involution satisfying the properties of the adjoint. A particular case is that of a complex algebra A of continuous linear operators on a complex Hilbert space with two additional properties:

Functional analysis Branch of mathematical analysis

Functional analysis is a branch of mathematical analysis, the core of which is formed by the study of vector spaces endowed with some kind of limit-related structure and the linear functions defined on these spaces and respecting these structures in a suitable sense. The historical roots of functional analysis lie in the study of spaces of functions and the formulation of properties of transformations of functions such as the Fourier transform as transformations defining continuous, unitary etc. operators between function spaces. This point of view turned out to be particularly useful for the study of differential and integral equations.

In mathematics, a von Neumann algebra or W*-algebra is a *-algebra of bounded operators on a Hilbert space that is closed in the weak operator topology and contains the identity operator. It is a special type of C*-algebra.

Noncommutative geometry (NCG) is a branch of mathematics concerned with a geometric approach to noncommutative algebras, and with the construction of spaces that are locally presented by noncommutative algebras of functions. A noncommutative algebra is an associative algebra in which the multiplication is not commutative, that is, for which does not always equal ; or more generally an algebraic structure in which one of the principal binary operations is not commutative; one also allows additional structures, e.g. topology or norm, to be possibly carried by the noncommutative algebra of functions.

In functional analysis, a discipline within mathematics, given a C*-algebra A, the Gelfand–Naimark–Segal construction establishes a correspondence between cyclic *-representations of A and certain linear functionals on A. The correspondence is shown by an explicit construction of the *-representation from the state. It is named for Israel Gelfand, Mark Naimark, and Irving Segal.

In mathematics, the Gelfand representation in functional analysis has two related meanings:

In functional analysis, a state of an operator system is a positive linear functional of norm 1. States in functional analysis generalize the notion of density matrices in quantum mechanics, which represent quantum states, both §§ Mixed states​ and Pure states. Density matrices in turn generalize state vectors, which only represent pure states. For M an operator system in a C*-algebra A with identity, the set of all states ofM, sometimes denoted by S(M), is convex, weak-* closed in the Banach dual space M*. Thus the set of all states of M with the weak-* topology forms a compact Hausdorff space, known as the state space of M.

In mathematics, noncommutative topology is a term used for the relationship between topological and C*-algebraic concepts. The term has its origins in the Gelfand–Naimark theorem, which implies the duality of the category of locally compact Hausdorff spaces and the category of commutative C*-algebras. Noncommutative topology is related to analytic noncommutative geometry.

In abstract algebra, a Jordan algebra is a nonassociative algebra over a field whose multiplication satisfies the following axioms:

  1. .

The word 'algebra' is used for various branches and structures of mathematics. For their overview, see Algebra.

In the theory of von Neumann algebras, a part of the mathematical field of functional analysis, Tomita–Takesaki theory is a method for constructing modular automorphisms of von Neumann algebras from the polar decomposition of a certain involution. It is essential for the theory of type III factors, and has led to a good structure theory for these previously intractable objects.

In mathematics, affiliated operators were introduced by Murray and von Neumann in the theory of von Neumann algebras as a technique for using unbounded operators to study modules generated by a single vector. Later Atiyah and Singer showed that index theorems for elliptic operators on closed manifolds with infinite fundamental group could naturally be phrased in terms of unbounded operators affiliated with the von Neumann algebra of the group. Algebraic properties of affiliated operators have proved important in L2 cohomology, an area between analysis and geometry that evolved from the study of such index theorems.

Space (mathematics) Mathematical set with some added structure

In mathematics, a space is a set with some added structure.

In mathematics, the Banach–Stone theorem is a classical result in the theory of continuous functions on topological spaces, named after the mathematicians Stefan Banach and Marshall Stone.

In mathematics, operator K-theory is a noncommutative analogue of topological K-theory for Banach algebras with most applications used for C*-algebras.

In mathematics, a commutation theorem explicitly identifies the commutant of a specific von Neumann algebra acting on a Hilbert space in the presence of a trace. The first such result was proved by Francis Joseph Murray and John von Neumann in the 1930s and applies to the von Neumann algebra generated by a discrete group or by the dynamical system associated with a measurable transformation preserving a probability measure. Another important application is in the theory of unitary representations of unimodular locally compact groups, where the theory has been applied to the regular representation and other closely related representations. In particular this framework led to an abstract version of the Plancherel theorem for unimodular locally compact groups due to Irving Segal and Forrest Stinespring and an abstract Plancherel theorem for spherical functions associated with a Gelfand pair due to Roger Godement. Their work was put in final form in the 1950s by Jacques Dixmier as part of the theory of Hilbert algebras. It was not until the late 1960s, prompted partly by results in algebraic quantum field theory and quantum statistical mechanics due to the school of Rudolf Haag, that the more general non-tracial Tomita–Takesaki theory was developed, heralding a new era in the theory of von Neumann algebras.

In mathematics, Jordan operator algebras are real or complex Jordan algebras with the compatible structure of a Banach space. When the coefficients are real numbers, the algebras are called Jordan Banach algebras. The theory has been extensively developed only for the subclass of JB algebras. The axioms for these algebras were devised by Alfsen, Schultz & Størmer (1978). Those that can be realised concretely as subalgebras of self-adjoint operators on a real or complex Hilbert space with the operator Jordan product and the operator norm are called JC algebras. The axioms for complex Jordan operator algebras, first suggested by Irving Kaplansky in 1976, require an involution and are called JB* algebras or Jordan C* algebras. By analogy with the abstract characterisation of von Neumann algebras as C* algebras for which the underlying Banach space is the dual of another, there is a corresponding definition of JBW algebras. Those that can be realised using ultraweakly closed Jordan algebras of self-adjoint operators with the operator Jordan product are called JW algebras. The JBW algebras with trivial center, so-called JBW factors, are classified in terms of von Neumann factors: apart from the exceptional 27 dimensional Albert algebra and the spin factors, all other JBW factors are isomorphic either to the self-adjoint part of a von Neumann factor or to its fixed point algebra under a period two *-anti-automorphism. Jordan operator algebras have been applied in quantum mechanics and in complex geometry, where Koecher's description of bounded symmetric domains using Jordan algebras has been extended to infinite dimensions.

This is a glossary for the terminology in a mathematical field of functional analysis.


  1. Theory of Operator Algebras I By Masamichi Takesaki, Springer 2012, p vi

Further reading