nLab Heisenberg Lie algebra



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Suppose we are given a commutative unital ring kk and a module VV over kk equipped with a skew-symmetric bilinear form

ω:V kVk. \omega: V\otimes_k V\to k \,.

(Typically, one requires ω\omega to be non-degenerate, see below, but this is not needed for the following definition).

The Heisenberg Lie algebra Heis(V,ω)Heis(V, \omega) corresponding to (V,ω)(V,\omega) is the Lie algebra given by the kk-module VkV\oplus k together with the unit kVkk \hookrightarrow V\oplus k, s(0,s)=:s1s\mapsto (0,s) =: s 1 and Lie kk-algebra bracket

[(m,s),(m,s)]:=(0,ω(m,m)1). [(m,s),(m',s')] := (0, \omega(m,m')1) \,.

In symplectic geometry

The notion of Heisenberg algebra arose in the study of quantization by tools of symplectic geometry:

A special case of the above definition is that where (V,ω)(V,\omega) a symplectic vector space (hence kk a field and ω\omega non-degenerate).

In this case the Heisenberg algebra is a sub-Lie algebra of the Lie algebra underlying the Poisson algebra of (V,ω)(V,\omega). For more on this see below.

Heisenberg Lie nn-algebras in nn-plectic geometry

We discuss a generalization of the notion of Heisenberg Lie algebra from ordinary symplectic geometry to a notion of Heisenberg Lie n-algebra in higher geometric quantization of n-plectic geometry. See at Heisenberg Lie n-algebra for more.

The following definition is naturally motivated from the fact that:

  1. The ordinary Heisenberg Lie algebra is the sub-Lie algebra of the

Poisson bracket Lie algebra, the one underlying the corresponding Poisson algebra (see below) on the constant and linear functions.

  1. The generalization of Poisson brackets to Poisson Lie n-algebras in n-plectic geometry for all nn is established (see there).

In view of this, the following definition takes the Heisenberg Lie nn-algebra to be the sub-Lie nn-algebra of the Poisson Lie n-algebra on the linear and constant differential forms.

First we need the following definition, which is elementary, but nevertheless worth making explicit once.


Let nn \in \mathbb{N}, let (V,ω)(V, \omega) be an n-plectic vector space.

The corresponding nn-plectic manifold is the n-plectic manifold (V,ω)(V, \mathbf{\omega}), with VV now the canonical smooth manifold structure on the given vector space, and with

ωΩ n+1(V) \mathbf{\omega} \in \Omega^{n+1}(V)

the differential form obtained by left (right) translating ω\omega along VV.

Explicitly, for all vector fields {v iΓ(TV)} i=1 n\{v_i \in \Gamma(T V)\}_{i = 1}^n and all points xVx \in V we set

ω x(v 1,,v n):=ω(v 1(x),,v n(x)). \mathbf{\omega}_x(v_1, \cdots, v_n) := \omega(v_1(x), \cdots, v_n(x)) \,.

Here on the right – and in all of the following – we are using that every tangent space T xVT_x V of VV is naturally identified with VV itself

T xVV. T_x V \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} V \,.

Let nn \in \mathbb{N}, let (V,ω)(V, \omega) be an n-plectic vector space and let (V,ω)(V, \mathbf{\omega}) be the corresponding n-plectic manifold.

The Heisenberg Lie nn-algebra Heis(V,ω)Heis(V,\omega) is the sub-Lie n-algebra of the Poisson Lie n-algebra 𝒫(V,ω)\mathcal{P}(V, \omega) on those differential forms which are either linear or constant (with respect to left/right translation on VV).

All one has to observe is:


This is indeed a sub-Lie nn-algebra.


We need to check that the linear and constant forms are closed under the L-infinity algebra brackets of 𝒫(V,ω)\mathcal{P}(V, \omega).

The only non-trivial such brackets are the unary one, and the ones on elements all of degree 0.

The unary bracket is given by the de Rham differential. Since this sends a linear form to a constant form and a constant form to 0, our sub-complex is closed under this.

Similarly, the brackets on elements all in degree 0 is given by contraction of ω\mathbf{\omega} with the Hamiltonian vector fields of linear or constant forms. Since ω\mathbf{\omega} is a constant form, and since the de Rham differential of a linear or constant form is constant (or even 0), these Hamiltonian vector fields are necessarily constant. Hence their contraction with ω\mathbf{\omega} gives a constant form.


Relation to Poisson algebra

We discuss how the notion of Heisenberg Lie algebra relates to that of Poisson algebra.


For (X,ω)(X, \omega) a symplectic vector space, there is a natural Lie algebra homomorphism

Heis(V,ω)𝒫(V,ω) Heis(V, \omega) \hookrightarrow \mathcal{P}(V,\omega)

exhibiting the Heisenberg Lie algebra as a sub-Lie algebra of that underlying the Poisson algebra 𝒫(V,ω)\mathcal{P}(V,\omega) of VV.

Namely, it is the sub-Lie algebra on the linear functions and the constant functions.


Let (V,ω)(V, \omega) be a symplectic vector space over the real numbers. Using the canonical isomorphism ϕ:TVV×V\phi : T V \simeq V \times V of the tangent bundle of VV with the projection p 1:V×VVp_1 : V \times V \to V, we obtain from the bilinear form ω\omega a differential 2-form ωΩ 2(V)\mathbf{\omega} \in \Omega^2(V) by the assignment

ω(v,w):=ω(p 2ϕ(v),p 2ϕ(w)) \mathbf{\omega}(\mathbf{v}, \mathbf{w}) := \omega(p_2 \phi(\mathbf{v}), p_2 \phi(\mathbf{w}))

for all v,wΓ(TV)\mathbf{v}, \mathbf{w} \in \Gamma(T V).

This way (V,ω)(V, \mathbf{\omega}) is a symplectic manifold and thus comes with a Poisson algebra. Write 𝒫(V,ω)\mathcal{P}(V,\mathbf{\omega}) for the Lie algebra underlying the Poisson algebra of (V,ω)(V, \mathbf{\omega}).

Its underlying vector space is the space C (V)C^\infty(V) of smooth functions VV \to \mathbb{R}. To every element fC (V)f \in C^\infty(V) is associated its Hamiltonian vector field v fΓ(TX)\mathbf{v}_f \in \Gamma(T X), defined (uniquely, due to the non-degeneracy of ω\omega) by the equation

d dRf=ω(v f,). d_{dR} f = \mathbf{\omega}(\mathbf{v}_f, -) \,.

In terms of this, the Lie bracket of the Poisson algebra is defined to be

[f,g]:=ω(v f,v g). [f,g] := \mathbf{\omega}(\mathbf{v}_f, \mathbf{v}_g) \,.

Inside all smooth functions sit the linear functions VV \to \mathbb{R}, which form the dual vector space to VV:

V *C (V) V^* \hookrightarrow C^\infty(V)
αα(). \alpha \mapsto \alpha(-) \,.

By the non-degeneracy of ω\omega, for every fV *f \in V^* there is an element v fVv_f \in V such that

f=ω(v f,)C (V). f = \omega(v_f,-) \in C^\infty(V) \,.

Moreover, the canonical extension v f\mathbf{v}_f of v fv_f to a vector field on VV is a Hamiltonian vector field for ff

d dRf=ω(v f,). d_{dR} f = \mathbf{\omega}(\mathbf{v}_f,-) \,.

It follows that the Lie bracket of two linear functions f,gf,g in the Poisson algebra is

[f,g] =ω(v f,v g) =ω(v f,v g). \begin{aligned} [f,g] & = \mathbf{\omega}(\mathbf{v}_f, \mathbf{v}_g) \\ & = \omega(v_f, v_g) \end{aligned} \,.

Notice that on the right we have a constant function on VV.

Write ρ 2:C (V)\rho_2 : \mathbb{R} \hookrightarrow C^\infty(V) for the inclusion of the constant functions, and write

ρ 1:VωV *C (V). \rho_1 : V \stackrel{\omega}{\to} V^* \hookrightarrow C^\infty(V) \,.

Then, by the above, the inclusion

ρ:V(ρ 1,ρ 2)C (V) \rho : V \oplus \mathbb{R} \stackrel{(\rho_1, \rho_2)}{\to} C^\infty(V)

induces a Lie algebra homomorphism

ρ:Heis(V,ω)𝒫(V,ω) \rho : Heis(V,\omega) \hookrightarrow \mathcal{P}(V, \mathbf{\omega})

which exhibits the Heisenberg Lie algebra as a sub-Lie algebra of that underlying the Poisson algebra.

Integration to Heisenberg group

As for any Lie algebra one has Lie integration of the Heisenberg Lie algebra to a Lie group. This is called the Heisenberg group (of the given symplectic vector space).

Relation to the Weyl algebra

In the case of standard symplectic form on the Cartesian space 2n\mathbb{R}^{2n}, the universal enveloping algebra of the Heisenberg Lie algebra is an associative algebra 𝒰(Heis( 2n))\mathcal{U}\big(Heis(\mathbb{R}^{2n})\big). Depending on conventions, this either already is the Weyl algebra on 2n2n generators or else it becomes so after after forming the quotient algebra in which the central generator is identified with the unit element of the ground field – whereas in the former case (considered eg. in Kravchenko 2000, Def. 2.1; Bekaert 2005, p. 9) the central generator plays the role of the formal Planck constant \hbar with the Weyl algebra regarded as a formal deformation quantization of the symplectic manifold 2m\mathbb{R}^{2m}.

Accordingly, given a Heisenberg Lie n n -algebra it makes sense to call its universal enveloping E n E_n -algebra a Weyl n n -algebra.

Relation to the Heisenberg double

Given any Hopf algebra, one can define its Heisenberg double, which generalized the Heisenberg-Weyl algebra, which corresponds to the case when the Hopf algebra is the polynomial algebra.



  • Ernst Binz, Sonja Pods, The geometry of Heisenberg groups — With Applications in Signal Theory, Optics, Quantization, and Field Quantization, Mathematical Surveys and Monographs 151, American Mathematical Society (2008) [ams:surv-151]

Lecture notes:

  • (section 4 in) Gordon, Infinite-dimensional Lie algebras, Lecture notes, Edinburgh (2008) (pdf)

  • Teruji Thomas, Geometric quantization II: Prequantization and the Heisenberg group (pdf), section 4 (relating to geometric quantization)

Relation to the Weyl algebra:

A categorification of the Heisenberg algebra:

An nn-fold categorification of the Lie algebra underlying the Poisson algebra (and hence including the Weil algebra) for all nn to a Lie n-algebra is considered in n-plectic geometry,

Last revised on December 2, 2023 at 11:55:36. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.