In mathematics, the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula is the solution for to the equation
for possibly noncommutative X and Y in the Lie algebra of a Lie group. There are various ways of writing the formula, but all ultimately yield an expression for in Lie algebraic terms, that is, as a formal series (not necessarily convergent) in and and iterated commutators thereof. The first few terms of this series are:
where "" indicates terms involving higher commutators of and . If and are sufficiently small elements of the Lie algebra of a Lie group , the series is convergent. Meanwhile, every element sufficiently close to the identity in can be expressed as for a small in . Thus, we can say that near the identity the group multiplication in —written as —can be expressed in purely Lie algebraic terms. The Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula can be used to give comparatively simple proofs of deep results in the Lie group–Lie algebra correspondence.
If and are sufficiently small matrices, then can be computed as the logarithm of , where the exponentials and the logarithm can be computed as power series. The point of the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula is then the highly nonobvious claim that can be expressed as a series in repeated commutators of and .
The formula is named after Henry Frederick Baker, John Edward Campbell, and Felix Hausdorff who stated its qualitative form, i.e. that only commutators and commutators of commutators, ad infinitum, are needed to express the solution. An earlier statement of the form was adumbrated by Friedrich Schur in 1890 where a convergent power series is given, with terms recursively defined. This qualitative form is what is used in the most important applications, such as the relatively accessible proofs of the Lie correspondence and in quantum field theory. Following Schur, it was noted in print by Campbell (1897); elaborated by Henri Poincaré (1899) and Baker (1902); and systematized geometrically, and linked to the Jacobi identity by Hausdorff (1906). The first actual explicit formula, with all numerical coefficients, is due to Eugene Dynkin (1947). The history of the formula is described in detail in the article of Achilles and Bonfiglioli and in the book of Bonfiglioli and Fulci.
For many purposes, it is only necessary to know that an expansion for in terms of iterated commutators of and exists; the exact coefficients are often irrelevant. (See, for example, the discussion of the relationship between Lie group and Lie algebra homomorphisms in Section 5.2 of Hall's book, where the precise coefficients play no role in the argument.) A remarkably direct existence proof was given by Martin Eichler.; see also the "Existence results" section below.
In other cases, one may need detailed information about and it is therefore desirable to compute as explicitly as possible. Numerous formulas exist; we will describe two of the main ones (Dykin's formula and the integral formula of Poincaré) in this section.
Let G be a Lie group with Lie algebra . Let
where the sum is performed over all nonnegative values of and , and the following notation has been used:
It should be emphasized that the series is not convergent in general; it is convergent (and the stated formula is valid) for all sufficiently small and . Since [A, A] = 0, the term is zero if or if and .
The above lists all summands of order 5 or lower (i.e. those containing 5 or fewer X's and Y's). The X ↔ Y (anti-)/symmetry in alternating orders of the expansion, follows from Z(Y, X) = −Z(−X,−Y). A complete elementary proof of this formula can be found here.
An integral formula
involving the generating function for the Bernoulli numbers,
Matrix Lie group illustration
When one solves for Z in
using the series expansions for exp and log one obtains a simpler formula:
The first, second, third, and fourth order terms are:
It should be emphasized that the formulas for the various 's is not the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula. Rather, the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula is one of various expressions for 's in terms of repeated commutators of and . The point is that it is far from obvious that it is possible to express each in terms of commutators. (The reader is invited, for example, to verify by direct computation that is expressible as a linear combination of the two nontrivial third-order commutators of and , namely and .) The general result that each is expressible as a combination of commutators was shown in an elegant, recursive way by Eichler.
A consequence of the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula is the following result about the trace:
That is to say, since each with is expressible as a linear combination of commutators, the trace of each such terms is zero.
Questions of convergence
Suppose and are the following matrices in the Lie algebra (the space of matrices with trace zero):
This simple example illustrates an important point: The various versions of the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula, which give expressions for Z in terms of iterated Lie-brackets of X and Y, describe formal power series whose convergence is not guaranteed. Thus, if one wants Z to be an actual element of the Lie algebra containing X and Y (as opposed to a formal power series), one has to assume that X and Y are small. Thus, the conclusion that the product operation on a Lie group is determined by the Lie algebra is only a local statement. Indeed, the result cannot be global, because globally one can have nonisomorphic Lie groups with isomorphic Lie algebras.
Concretely, if working with a matrix Lie algebra and is a given submultiplicative matrix norm, convergence is guaranteed if
If and commute, that is , the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula reduces to .
This is the degenerate case used routinely in quantum mechanics, as illustrated below. In this case, there are no smallness restrictions on and . This result is behind the "exponentiated commutation relations" that enter into the Stone–von Neumann theorem. A simple proof of this identity is given below.
Another useful form of the general formula emphasizes expansion in terms of Y and uses the adjoint mapping notation :
which is evident from the integral formula above. (The coefficients of the nested commutators with a single are normalized Bernoulli numbers.)
Now assume that the commutator is a multiple of , so that . Then all iterated commutators will be multiples of , and no quadratic or higher terms in appear. Thus, the term above vanishes and we obtain:
Again, in this case there are no smallness restriction on and . The restriction on guarantees that the expression on the right side makes sense. (When we may interpret .) We also obtain a simple "braiding identity":
which may be written as an adjoint dilation:
If and are matrices, one can compute using the power series for the exponential and logarithm, with convergence of the series if and are sufficiently small. It is natural to collect together all terms where the total degree in and equals a fixed number , giving an expression . (See the section "Matrix Lie group illustration" above for formulas for the first several 's.) A remarkably direct and concise, recursive proof that each is expressible in terms of repeated commutators of and was given by Martin Eichler.
Alternatively, we can give an existence argument as follows. The Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula implies that if X and Y are in some Lie algebra defined over any field of characteristic 0 like or , then
can formally be written as an infinite sum of elements of . [This infinite series may or may not converge, so it need not define an actual element Z in .] For many applications, the mere assurance of the existence of this formal expression is sufficient, and an explicit expression for this infinite sum is not needed. This is for instance the case in the Lorentzian construction of a Lie group representation from a Lie algebra representation. Existence can be seen as follows.
We consider the ring of all non-commuting formal power series with real coefficients in the non-commuting variables X and Y. There is a ring homomorphism from S to the tensor product of S with S over R,
called the coproduct, such that
- and .
(The definition of Δ is extended to the other elements of S by requiring R-linearity, multiplicativity and infinite additivity.)
One can then verify the following properties:
- The map exp, defined by its standard Taylor series, is a bijection between the set of elements of S with constant term 0 and the set of elements of S with constant term 1; the inverse of exp is log
- is grouplike (this means ) if and only if s is primitive (this means ).
- The grouplike elements form a group under multiplication.
- The primitive elements are exactly the formal infinite sums of elements of the Lie algebra generated by X and Y, where the Lie bracket is given by the commutator . (Friedrichs' theorem)
The existence of the Campbell–Baker–Hausdorff formula can now be seen as follows: The elements X and Y are primitive, so and are grouplike; so their product is also grouplike; so its logarithm is primitive; and hence can be written as an infinite sum of elements of the Lie algebra generated by X and Y.
The universal enveloping algebra of the free Lie algebra generated by X and Y is isomorphic to the algebra of all non-commuting polynomials in X and Y. In common with all universal enveloping algebras, it has a natural structure of a Hopf algebra, with a coproduct Δ. The ring S used above is just a completion of this Hopf algebra.
The Zassenhaus formula
where the exponents of higher order in t are likewise nested commutators, i.e., homogeneous Lie polynomials. These exponents, Cn in exp(–tX) exp(t(X+Y)) = Πn exp(tn Cn), follow recursively by application of the above BCH expansion.
As a corollary of this, the Suzuki–Trotter decomposition follows.
An important lemma and its application to a special case of the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula
Let G be a matrix Lie group and g its corresponding Lie algebra. Let adX be the linear operator on g defined by adX Y = [X,Y] = XY − YX for some fixed X ∈ g. (The adjoint endomorphism encountered above.) Denote with AdA for fixed A ∈ G the linear transformation of g given by AdAY = AYA−1.
This formula can be proved by evaluation of the derivative with respect to s of f (s)Y ≡ esX Y e−sX, solution of the resulting differential equation and evaluation at s = 1,
An application of the identity
For [X,Y] central, i.e., commuting with both X and Y,
Consequently, for g(s) ≡ esX esY, it follows that
whose solution is
Taking gives one of the special cases of the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula described above:
More generally, for non-central [X,Y] , the following braiding identity further follows readily,
Application in quantum mechanics
A special case of the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula is useful in quantum mechanics and especially quantum optics, where X and Y are Hilbert space operators, generating the Heisenberg Lie algebra. Specifically, the position and momentum operators in quantum mechanics, usually denoted and , satisfy the canonical commutation relation:
where is the identity operator. It follows that and commute with their commutator. Thus, if we formally applied a special case of the Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula (even though and are unbounded operators and not matrices), we would conclude that
This "exponentiated commutation relation" does indeed hold, and forms the basis of the Stone–von Neumann theorem.
A related application is the annihilation and creation operators, â and â†. Their commutator [â†,â]= −I is central, that is, it commutes with both â and â†. As indicated above, the expansion then collapses to the semi-trivial degenerate form:
where v is just a complex number.
This example illustrates the resolution of the displacement operator, exp(vâ†−v*â), into exponentials of annihilation and creation operators and scalars.
This degenerate Baker–Campbell–Hausdorff formula then displays the product of two displacement operators as another displacement operator (up to a phase factor), with the resultant displacement equal to the sum of the two displacements,
- Rossmann 2002 Equation (2) Section 1.3. For matrix Lie algebras over the fields R and C, the convergence criterion is that the log series converges for both sides of eZ = eXeY. This is guaranteed whenever ||X|| + ||Y|| < log 2, ||Z|| < log 2 in the Hilbert–Schmidt norm. Convergence may occur on a larger domain. See Rossmann 2002 p. 24.
- Rossmann 2002
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