# The Spinor Representation

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1 The Spinor Representation Math G4344, Spring 2012 As we have seen, the groups Spin(n) have a representation on R n given by identifying v R n as an element of the Clifford algebra C(n) and having g Spin(n) C(n) act by v gv g 1 This is also a SO(n) representation, the fundamental representation on vectors. Replacing v in this formula by an arbitrary element of C(n) we get a representation of Spin(n) (and also SO(n)) on C(n) which can be identified with its representation on Λ (R n ). This representation is reducible, the decomposition into irreducibles is just the decomposition of Λ (R n ) into the various Λ k (R n ) for k = 0,, n. The k = 0 and k = n cases give the trivial representation, but we get fundamental irreducible representations for k = 1,, n 1. The fundamental irreducible representations that are missed by this construction are called the spinor representations. They are true representations of Spin(n), but only representations up to sign (projective representations) of SO(n). For the even case of Spin(2n), we will see that there are two different irreducible half-spinor representations of dimension 2 n 1 each, for the odd dimensional case there is just one irreducible spinor representation, of dimension 2 n. In terms of the Dynkin diagrams of these groups, for SO(2n + 1), the spinor representation corresponds to the node at one end connected to the rest by a double bond. For SO(2n) the two half-spin representations correspond to the two nodes that branch off one end of the diagram. 1 Spinors We will be constructing spinor representations on complex vector spaces using the Clifford algebra and our first step is to consider what happens when one complexifies the Clifford algebra. The complex Clifford algebras will turn out to have a much simpler structure than the real ones, with a periodicity of degree 2 rather than degree 8 as in the real case. Definition 1 (Complex Clifford Algebra). The complex Clifford algebra C C (V, Q) is the Clifford algebra constructed by starting with the complexified vector space V R C, extending Q to this by complex-linearity, then using the same definition as in the real case. If we start with a real vector space V of dimension n, this will be denoted C C (n). One can easily see that C C (n) = C(n) C. The construction of the spin representation as invertible elements in C(n) can also be complexified, producing a construction of Spin(n, C) (the complexification of Spin(n)) as invertible elements in C C (n). Note that the the various real forms Spin(p, q) all are inside C C (n), but to recover them one needs to keep track of an extra piece of 1

2 structure. When the complexified Clifford algebra comes is the Clifford algebra of V R C, the complexification of a real vector space V, one has a conjugation operation C : V R C V R C that acts by complex conjugation of the C factor and leaves invariant the real subspace V 1. We will study the structure of the algebras C C (n) by an inductive argument. To begin the induction, recall that C(1) = C, C(2) = H so and C C (1) = C(1) R C = C C C C (2) = C(2) R C = H R C = M(2, C) Theorem 1. C C (n + 2) = C C (n) C C C (2) = C C (n) C M(2, C) Using the cases n = 1, 2 to start the induction, one finds Corollary 1. If n = 2k C C (2k) = M(2, C) M(2, C) = M(2 k, C) where the product has k factors, and if n = 2k + 1, C C (2k + 1) = C C (1) M(2 k, C) = M(2 k, C) M(2 k, C) Proof of Theorem: Choose generators h 1, h 2 of C(2), f 1,, f n of C(n) and e 1, e n+2 of C(n + 2). Then the isomorphism of the theorem is given by the following map of generators e 1 1 h 1 e 2 1 h 2 e 3 if 1 h 1 h 2 e n+2 if n h 1 h 2 One can check that this map preserves the Clifford algebra relations and is surjective, thus an isomorphism of algebras. From now we ll concentrate on the even case n = 2k. In this case we have seen that the complexified Clifford algebra is the algebra of 2 k by 2 k complex matrices. A spinor space S will be a vector space that these matrices act on: 2

3 Definition 2 (Spinors). A spinor module S for the Clifford algebra C C (2k) is given by a choice of a 2 k dimensional complex vector space S, together with an identification C C (2k) = End(S) of the Clifford algebra with the algebra of linear endomorphisms of S. So a spinor space is a complex dimensional vector space S, together with a choice of how the 2k generators e i of the Clifford algebra act as linear operators on S. To actually construct such an S, together with appropriate operators on it, we will use exterior algebra techniques. We ll begin by considering the real exterior algebra Λ (R n ). Associated to any vector v there is an operator on Λ (R n ) given by exterior multiplication by v v : α v α If one has chosen an inner product on R n there is an induced inner product on Λ (R n ) (the one where the wedge products of orthonormal basis vectors are orthonormal). With respect to this inner product, the operation v has an adjoint operator, v. Physicists have a useful notation for these operations, in which a (v) = v, a(v) = v and a (e i ) = a i, a(e i) = a i The algebra satisfied by these operators is called the algebra of Canonical Anticommutation Relations (CAR) Definition 3 (CAR). For each positive integer n, there is an algebra called the algebra of Canonical Anticommutation Relations, with 2n generators a i, a i, i = 1,, n satisfying the relations {a i, a j } = {a i, a j } = 0 {a i, a j } = δ ij As we have seen, this algebra can be represented as operators on Λ (R n ). One can identify this algebra with the Clifford algebra C(n) as follows since one can check that v C(n) a (v) a(v) v 2 = (a (v) a(v)) 2 = (a (v)) 2 + (a(v)) 2 {a (v), a(v)} = v 2 1 Specializing for simplicity to the case n = 2k, one can complexify Λ (R n ) and get a complex representation of C C (2k) on this space. This representation is of dimension 2 2k, so it is not the 2 k dimensional irreducible representation 3

4 on a spinor space S. Some way must be found to pick out a single irreducible representation S from the reducible representation on Λ (R n ) C. This problem is a bit like the one faced in the Borel-Weil approach to the representations of compact Lie groups, where we used a complex structure to pick out a single irreducible representation. Here we will have to use a similar trick. If we pick a complex structure J on V = R 2k, we have a decomposition V C = W J W J Where W J is the +i eigenspace of J, WJ is the i eigenspace. We will pick an orthogonal complex structure J, i.e. one satisfying < Jv, Jw >=< v, w > Definition 4 (Isotropic Subspace). A subspace W of a vector space V with inner product <, > is an isotropic subspace of V if and one has < w 1, w 2 >= 0 w 1, w 2 W Claim 1. The subspaces W J and W J are isotropic subspaces of V C. This is true since, for w 1, w 2 W J, < w 1, w 2 >=< Jw 1, Jw 2 >=< iw 1, iw 2 >= < w 1, w 2 > Since W J is isotropic, the Clifford subalgebra C(W J ) C C (2k) generated by elements of W J is actually the exterior algebra Λ (W J ) since on W J the quadratic form coming from the inner product is zero, and the Clifford algebra for zero quadratic form is just the exterior algebra. In a similar fashion C( W J ) can be identified with Λ ( W J ). There are various ways of setting this up, but what we plan to do is to construct a spinor space S, as, say Λ (W J ). This has the right dimension (2 k ) and we just need to show that C C (2k) can be identified with the algebra of endomorphisms of this space. Later on we ll examine the dependence of this whole set-up on the choice of complex structure J, but for now we will simply pick the standard choice of complex structure, identifying a complex basis w j = e 2j 1 +ie 2j for j = 1,, k, with these vectors orthogonal with respect to the standard Hermitian structure. Claim 2. C C (2k) = End(Λ (C k )) Using the creation and annihilation operator notation for operators on Λ (C k ), we can identify Clifford algebra generators with generators of the CAR algebra as follows (for j = 1,, k) e 2j 1 = a j a j e 2j = i(a j + a j) 4

5 One can check that the CAR algebra relations imply the Clifford algebra relations {e i, e j } = 2δ ij The complex basis elements w j W J of the complexified Clifford algebra have adjoints w j W J. With this explicit model S = Λ (C k ) and the explicit Clifford algebra action on it, one can see how elements of spin(2k) act on S, and thus compute the character of S as a Spin(2k) representation. The k commuting elements of spin(2k) that generate the maximal torus are the 1 2 e 2j 1e 2j. In the representation on Λ (C k ) they are given by 1 2 e 2j 1e 2j = i 1 2 (a j a j)(a j + a j) = i 1 2 [a j, a j ] The eigenvalues of [a j, a j ] on Λ (C k ) are ±1, depending on whether or not the basis vector e j is in the string of wedge products that makes up the eigenvector. The weights of the the representation S are sets of k choices of ± 1 2 (± 1 2,, ±1 2 ) In this normalization, representations of Spin(2k) that are actually representations of SO(2k) have integral weights, the ones that are just representations of Spin(2k) have half-integral weights. The decomposition into half-spin representations S + and S corresponds to the decomposition into weights with an even or odd number of minus signs. With a standard choice of positive roots, the highest weight of one half-spin representation is (+ 1 2, +1 2,, +1 2, +1 2 ) and for the other it is (+ 1 2, +1 2,, +1 2, 1 2 ) Note that these weights are not the weights of the representation of U(k) SO(2k) on Λ (C k ). If one looks at how the Lie algebra of the maximal torus there acts on Λ (C k ), one finds that the weights are all 0 or 1. So the weights of Λ (C k ) are the same as the weights of S, but shifted by an overall factor ( 1 2, 1 2,, 1 2 ) In other words, as a representation it of the maximal torus of Spin(2k) it is best to think of S as not Λ (C k ), but as S = Λ (C k ) (Λ k (C k )) 1 2 This expression makes sense not for U(k) SO(2k), but for its double-cover Ũ(k) and its maximal torus T. 5

6 This overall factor disappears if you just consider the projective representation on P (S) (complex lines in S), since then P (S) = P (Λ (C k )) This is a reflection of the general point that by trying to construct S only knowing End(S) = C C (2k), so we can only canonically construct P (S), not S itself. Multiplying S by a scalar doesn t affect End(S). 2 Complex Structures and Borel-Weil for Spinors The construction of S given above used a specific choice of complex structure J. In general, a choice of J allows us to write R 2k C = W J W J and construct S as Λ (W J ). Recall that to understand its transformation properties under the maximal torus of Spin(n), it is better to think of S = Λ (W J ) (Λ k (W J )) 1 2 In the language of the CAR algebra, one can think of S as being generated by the operators a j and a j acting on a vacuum vector Ω J. Ω J depends on the choice of complex structure, and transforms under the maximal torus of Spin(2k), transforming as (Λ k ( W J )) 1 2. Given the spinor representation S, one can think of Ω J as a vector in S satisfying w Ω J = 0 w W J This relation defines Ω J up to a scalar factor and sets up an identification between orthogonal complex structures J and lines in S. Not all elements of P (S) correspond to possible J s. The ones that do are said to be the lines generated by pure spinors. This correspondance between pure spinors and orthogonal complex structures J could equivalently be thought of as a correspondance betwen pure spinors and isotropic subspaces of R 2k C of maximal dimension (the W J ). Once one has made a specific choice of J, say J 0, this defines a model for the spinor space Λ (W J0 ) and in this model Ω J0 = 1. If one changes complex structure from J 0 to a J such that W J = graph(s : W J0 W J0 ) then one has identified J with a map S W J0 W J 0. Using the inner product and the fact that W J is isotropic one can show that S Λ 2 (W J0 ). One can then show that taking Ω J = e 1 2 S solves the equation w Ω J = 0 w W J 6

7 for this model of S. For more details about this construction, see [3] Chapter 12. The space of all orthogonal complex structures on R 2k can be identified with the homogeneous space O(2k)/U(k). An orthogonal complex structure J is explicitly represented by an orthogonal map J O(2k). This space has two components, corresponding to a choice of orientation. We ll mainly consider the component J SO(2k). For any such J, the subgroup that preserves the decompostion of R 2k C into eigenspaces of J (and thus preserves that complex structure) is a subgroup isomorphic to U(k). The space of orientation-preserving orthogonal complex structures can be thought of as SO(2k)/U(k) = Spin(2k)/Ũ(k) There is a complex line bundle L over this space whose fiber above J is the complex line in P (S) generated by Ω J. The fact that Ω J transforms as (Λ k (W J )) 1 2 corresponds to the global fact that as line bundles L L = det 1 where det is the line bundle whose fiber over J is Λ k (W J ). The space Spin(2k)/Ũ(k) is one of the generalized flag manifolds that occurs if one develops the Borel-Weil picture for the compact group Spin(2k). It is a complex manifold, with a description as a quotient of complex Lie groups SO(2k)/U(k) = Spin(2k)/Ũ(k) = Spin(2k, C)/P where P is a parabolic subgroup of Spin(2k, C). The line bundle L is a holomorphic line bundle, and corresponds to the Borel-Weil construction of a line bundle with highest weight (+ 1 2, +1 2,, +1 2, +1 2 ) This is the holomorphic line bundle corresponding to one of the half-spinor representations S + and the Borel-Weil theorem gives a construction of S + as S + = Γ hol (L) Unlike the construction in terms of the complex exterior algebra, this construction doesn t depend upon a fixed choice of complex structure, but uses the global geometry of the space of all complex structures. 3 Other Constructions of Spinors and References There are several other possible approaches to constructing spinor representations, These include 7

8 One could of course just use the general theory for compact Lie groups, which includes constructions of representations in terms of Verma modules or geometrically as in Borel-Weil-Bott. An example of a textbook that works out properties of spinors just using roots, weights, the Weyl group, etc. is [1]. One can work with a split real form of Q of signature (k, k), and then complexify. This has the advantage that the real Clifford algebra is just C(k, k) = M(2 k, R) and the vector space V can be written as W W, with W a real k- dimensional isotropic subspace and W its dual, also isotropic. One then has C(W ) = Λ (W ), C(W ) = Λ (W ) and can realize the spinor representation on Λ (W ) with C(W ) acting by exterior multiplication, C(W ) by the adjoint operation. For examples of where this construction is carried out, see [2] and [4], as well as [5]. The problem with this is that we are actually interested not in the split real form Spin(k, k) of the spin group, but the compact form Spin(2k), so need to somehow recover that structure using a conjugation operator. We will soon turn to an analog of the spin story using antisymmetric forms and symplectic groups. In that case, the analog construction for the split form is just the so-called Schrödinger representation, and there it is representations of the split form that we will be interested in. The construction we have used here is the analog of the Fock representation we will describe in the symplectic case. One can think of what we are doing is trying to construct minimal left ideals of the algebra C C (n), and do this by finding an element I so that our spinors gets constructed as the left action of C C (n) on C C (n)/i. An example of a book treating the subject from this point of view is [6]. By analogy with what we did in the Peter-Weyl/Borel-Weil case, trying to identify a representation V when what we had was End(V ) = V V, one can use the right Clifford action to impose conditions that pick out a unique one-dimensional space in V, say the highest-weight space. Knowing the highest weight of the representation and how the maximal torus acts in terms of quadratic Clifford elements, this can be done by constucting k such elements Q j = e 2j 1 e j i C C (2k) which satisfy Q 2 j = 1 and imposing the k conditions picking out the eigenspace where they act by +1. Besides the references given in the notes on Clifford algebras and spin groups, another good reference for this material, from a point of view close to the one taken here, is [7]. For another point of view, including some discussion of the relation to the Heisenberg algebra, see [?]. 8

9 References [1] Bump, D., Lie Groups, Springer-Verlag, [2] Fulton, W., Harris, J., Representation Theory: A First Course, Springer- Verlag, [3] Segal, G., and Pressley, A., Loop Groups, Oxford University Press, [4] Symmetry, Representations and Invariants, GTM 255 Springer-Verlag, [5] Meinrenken, E., Clifford Algebras and Lie Groups Course notes at main.pdf [6] Lounesto, P., Clifford Algebras and Spinors Cambridge University Press, [7] Freed, D., Geometry of Dirac Operators Course notes at [8] Deligne, P., Notes on Spinors, in Quantum Fields and Strings: A Course for Mathematicians, AMS,

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