Grothendieck has developed a deep version of differential calculus, based on a linearization of -bimodules. It is also related to the (de Rham) descent data for the stack of -modules over the simplicial scheme resolving the diagonal of . As abstract descent data correspond to the flat connections for the corresponding monad, this was historically the first case in which this correspondence was noted; in positive characteristics Grothendieck called the corresponding descent data for the de Rham site “costratifications”, see
This corresponds to looking at a sequence of infinitesimal neighborhoods of the diagonal. This geometrical principle can be applied to other categories; it is the basis of the study of jet schemes and close in spirit to some constructions in synthetic differential geometry.
Given a commutative unital ring , a filtration () on a --bimodule is a differential filtration if the commutator for any in is in , and . A bimodule is differential if it has an exhaustive () differential filtration. Every --bimodule has a differential part, i.e. the maximal differential submodule of .
Regular differential operators, as defined by Grothendieck, are the elements of the differential part of i.e. a maximal differential subbimodule in . The operators in are called the differential operators of degree . If is a ring morphism, then the differential part of via its natural --bimodule structure is also an object of ; in particular is a ring and is an embedding of rings.
More generally (and in the affine case equivalently), for a -scheme , let denote the sheaf , where is the ideal of the diagonal (this makes sense since the diagonal morphism is an immersion, cf. EGAI, 5.3.9.), and the structure morphism. Consider as -module via the morphism , .
For -modules , is defined to be . Note that has two canonical structures as -module given by the projections . The tensor product is understood to be constructed via and considered as an -module via .
In the affine case, and in characteristics zero, the sheaf of regular differential operators is locally isomorphic to the Weyl algebra. For that simple case, a good reference is
Regular differential operators have been nontrivially generalized to noncommutative rings (and schemes) by V. Lunts and A. L. Rosenberg?, as well as to the setting of braided monoidal categories. Their motivation is an analogue of a Beilinson-Bernstein localization theorem for quantum groups. The category of differential bimodules is categorically characterized in their work as the minimal coreflective topologizing monoidal subcategory of the abelian monoidal category of --bimodules which is containing . In the case of noncommutative rings, Lunts-Rosenberg definition of differential operators has been recovered from a different perspective in the setup of noncommutative algebraic geometry represented by monoidal categories; the emphasis is on the duality between infinitesimals and differential operators: