Annihilation operators

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A family of closed linear operators , where is some Hilbert space, acting on a Fock space constructed from (i.e. on the symmetrization or anti-symmetrization of the space of tensors over ) such that on the vector , , consisting of the symmetrized or anti-symmetrized tensor product of a sequence of elements , in , they are given by the formulas:


in the symmetric case, and


in the anti-symmetric case; the empty vector , (i.e. the unit vector in the subspace of constants in ) is mapped to zero by . In these formulas is the inner product in . The operators dual to the operators are called creation operators; their action on the vectors , , is given by the formulas



As a consequence of these definitions, for each the subspace , , the symmetrized or anti-symmetrized -th tensor power of , is mapped by into and by into .

In quantum physics, the Fock space , , is interpreted as the state space of a system consisting of an arbitrary (finite) number of identical quantum particles, the space is the state space of a single particle, the subspace corresponds to the states of the system with particles, i.e. states in which there are just particles. A state with particles is mapped by to a state with particles ( "annihilation" of a particle), and by to a state with particles ( "creation" of a particle).

The operators and form irreducible families of operators satisfying the following permutation relations: In the symmetric case (the commutation relations)


and in the anti-symmetric case (the anti-commutation relations)


where is the identity operator in or . Besides the families of operators and , , described here, there exist in the case of an infinite-dimensional space also other irreducible representations of the commutation and anti-commutation relations (4) and (5), not equivalent to those given above. Sometimes they are also called creation and annihilation operators. In the case of a finite-dimensional space , all irreducible representations of the commutation or anti-commutation relations are unitarily equivalent.

The operators are in many connections convenient "generators" in the set of all linear operators acting in the space , , and the representation of such operators as the sum of arbitrary creation and annihilation operators (the normal form of an operator) is very useful in applications. The connection with this formalism bears the name method of second quantization, cf. [1].

In the particular, but for applications important, case in which , (or in a more general case , where is a measure space), the family of operators defines two operator-valued generalized functions and such that

The introduction of and turns out to be convenient for the formalism of second quantization (e.g. it allows one directly to consider operators of the form

where is a certain "sufficiently-good" function), without having to recourse to their decomposition as a series in the monomials



[1] F.A. Berezin, "The method of second quantization" , Acad. Press (1966) (Translated from Russian) (Revised (augmented) second edition: Kluwer, 1989)
[2] R.L. Dobrushin, R.A. Minlos, Uspekhi Mat. Nauk , 32 : 2 (1977) pp. 67–122
[3] L. Gårding, A. Wightman, Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. , 40 : 7 (1954) pp. 617–626



[a1] J. Glimm, A. Jaffe, "Quantum physics, a functional integral point of view" , Springer (1981)
[a2] N.N. Bogolyubov, A.A. Logunov, I.T. Todorov, "Introduction to axiomatic quantum field theory" , Benjamin (1975) (Translated from Russian)
[a3] J. de Boer, "Construction operator formalism in many particle systems" J. de Boer (ed.) G.E. Uhlenbeck (ed.) , Studies in statistical mechanics , North-Holland (1965)
How to Cite This Entry:
Annihilation operators. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by R.A. Minlos (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article