Bernstein–Sato polynomial

In mathematics, the Bernstein–Sato polynomial is a polynomial related to differential operators, introduced independently by Joseph Bernstein (1971) and Mikio Sato and Takuro Shintani (1972, 1974), Sato (1990). It is also known as the b-function, the b-polynomial, and the Bernstein polynomial, though it is not related to the Bernstein polynomials used in approximation theory. It has applications to singularity theory, monodromy theory, and quantum field theory.

Severino Coutinho (1995) gives an elementary introduction, while Armand Borel (1987) and Masaki Kashiwara (2003) give more advanced accounts.

Definition and properties

If is a polynomial in several variables, then there is a non-zero polynomial and a differential operator with polynomial coefficients such that

The Bernstein–Sato polynomial is the monic polynomial of smallest degree amongst such polynomials . Its existence can be shown using the notion of holonomic D-modules.

Kashiwara (1976) proved that all roots of the Bernstein–Sato polynomial are negative rational numbers.

The Bernstein–Sato polynomial can also be defined for products of powers of several polynomials (Sabbah 1987). In this case it is a product of linear factors with rational coefficients.

Nero Budur, Mircea Mustaţǎ, and Morihiko Saito (2006) generalized the Bernstein–Sato polynomial to arbitrary varieties.

Note, that the Bernstein–Sato polynomial can be computed algorithmically. However, such computations are hard in general. There are implementations of related algorithms in computer algebra systems RISA/Asir, Macaulay2, and SINGULAR.

Daniel Andres, Viktor Levandovskyy, and Jorge Martín-Morales (2009) presented algorithms to compute the Bernstein–Sato polynomial of an affine variety together with an implementation in the computer algebra system SINGULAR.

Christine Berkesch and Anton Leykin (2010) described some of the algorithms for computing Bernstein–Sato polynomials by computer.


  • If then
so the Bernstein–Sato polynomial is
  • If then
  • The Bernstein–Sato polynomial of x2 + y3 is
  • If tij are n2 variables, then the Bernstein–Sato polynomial of det(tij) is given by
which follows from
where Ω is Cayley's omega process, which in turn follows from the Capelli identity.


It may have poles whenever b(s + n) is zero for a non-negative integer n.
  • If f(x) is a polynomial, not identically zero, then it has an inverse g that is a distribution;[lower-alpha 1] in other words, f g = 1 as distributions. If f(x) is non-negative the inverse can be constructed using the Bernstein–Sato polynomial by taking the constant term of the Laurent expansion of f(x)s at s = 1. For arbitrary f(x) just take times the inverse of
  • The Bernstein-Sato functional equation is used in computations of some of the more complex kinds of singular integrals occurring in quantum field theory Fyodor Tkachov (1997). Such computations are needed for precision measurements in elementary particle physics as practiced for instance at CERN (see the papers citing (Tkachov 1997)). However, the most interesting cases require a simple generalization of the Bernstein-Sato functional equation to the product of two polynomials , with x having 2-6 scalar components, and the pair of polynomials having orders 2 and 3. Unfortunately, a brute force determination of the corresponding differential operators and for such cases has so far proved prohibitively cumbersome. Devising ways to bypass the combinatorial explosion of the brute force algorithm would be of great value in such applications.


  1. Warning: The inverse is not unique in general, because if f has zeros then there are distributions whose product with f is zero, and adding one of these to an inverse of f is another inverse of f.


  • Andres, Daniel; Levandovskyy, Viktor; Martín-Morales, Jorge (2009), "Principal Intersection and Bernstein-Sato Polynomial of an Affine Variety", Proc. ISSAC 2009, Association for Computing Machinery: 231, arXiv:1002.3644, doi:10.1145/1576702.1576735
  • Bernstein, Joseph (1971). "Modules over a ring of differential operators. Study of the fundamental solutions of equations with constant coefficients". Functional Analysis and Its Applications. 5 (2): 89–101. doi:10.1007/BF01076413. MR 0290097.
  • Coutinho, Severino C. (1995). A primer of algebraic D-modules. London Mathematical Society Student Texts. 33. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-55908-1.
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