Clifford analysis

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Clifford analysis studies functions with values in a Clifford algebra, and, as such, is a direct generalization to higher dimensions of the classical theory of functions of one complex variable (cf. Functions of a complex variable, theory of). It has its roots in quaternionic analysis, which was developed from the 1920s onwards as an, albeit modest, counterpart of the theory of two complex variables. The latter was to evolve into the vast and rich theory of several complex variables. The former gained renewed interest in the 1950s and led to hypercomplex function theory (cf. also Hypercomplex functions), renamed Clifford analysis in the 1980s, when it grew into an autonomous discipline.

Clifford algebra, also called geometric algebra, was introduced in 1878 by the English mathematician and philosopher W.K. Clifford, generalizing W.R. Hamilton's quaternions (cf. also Quaternion).

If is a real -dimensional () quadratic space with non-degenerate bilinear form of signature , then, roughly speaking, the Clifford algebra over is the real, associative and non-commutative algebra with identity , containing and as subspaces, and with a multiplication governed by the rule

If is an orthonormal basis of , i.e.,

then for vectors

in , their (geometric) product splits into a scalar and a so-called bivector part:



Introducing conjugation as the anti-involution with , the squared length of a vector can be factorized as

This factorization implies the linearization of some fundamental partial differential operators of mathematical physics, such as the Laplace operator and the d'Alembert operator, and turns out to be crucial to Clifford analysis.

A general reference for Clifford algebra is [a4].

In the so-called Euclidean case, when and , two fundamental differential operators are introduced: the Euclidean Dirac operator

and the Euclidean Cauchy–Riemann operator

the latter being a generalization of the classical Cauchy–Riemann operator which is obtained for , identifying with the imaginary unit (cf. also Cauchy–Riemann equations). These operators linearize the Laplace operator in the sense that and .

Clifford analysis essentially deals with the study of null solutions of the operators and , both cases showing many similarities, at least formally, as shown in [a2].

A function , continuously differentiable in an open domain of and taking values in , is said to be monogenic in if in .

Monogenicity thus leads to an overdetermined first-order system, generalizing the Cauchy–Riemann system. In particular, if is -valued, the so-called Riesz system is obtained.

If is a fundamental solution of the Laplace operator , then is an -valued fundamental solution of .

The power of classical function theory of one complex variable is based on the Cauchy integral formula (cf. Cauchy integral theorem) and the Weierstrass convergence theorem (cf. Weierstrass theorem) on the one hand, and on Riemann's concept of conformal mapping on the other; they constitute the nuclei of the so-called analytic and geometric function theories, respectively.

In their turn, the basic analytic properties of monogenic functions are based upon the Cauchy formula,

where is monogenic in , is a compact -dimensional manifold with boundary in , and is the vector-valued -dimensional surface element given by

References for function-theoretic results in Clifford analysis are [a1] and [a2].

Among others, the Cauchy operator associated with the Dirac operator , as defined by the left-hand side of Cauchy's formula, is used in studying boundary value problems in domains of .

The Cauchy operator associated with the Cauchy–Riemann operator , when applied to functions in (), gives rise to the Cauchy transforms and the singular Cauchy transform on the Lipschitz surface , i.e. on a surface of the form

where is a Lipschitz function, possibly satisfying additional technical conditions (cf. also Lipschitz condition). It turns out that the scalar part of is the classical singular double-layer potential operator on . As, moreover, the projection operators determine the Hardy spaces and the Hardy decomposition of , the singular Cauchy transform may be viewed as a generalization of the classical Hilbert transform on the real line. These results reveal the potentials of Clifford analysis for dealing with problems of harmonic analysis in Euclidean space.

References for this area are [a3] and [a5].

Regarding the geometric viewpoint in Clifford analysis, Möbius transforms in can be completely characterized by specific -matrices over the Clifford group, the so-called Vahlen matrices. By means of this characterization, transforms of metrics and operators may be calculated. The introduction of Vahlen matrices has even inspired the recent development of Clifford analysis on hyperbolic spaces.

A reference for this area is [a4].


[a1] F. Brackx, R. Delanghe, F. Sommen, "Clifford analysis" , Pitman (1982)
[a2] R. Delanghe, F. Sommen, V. Souček, "Clifford algebra and spinor valued functions: a function theory for the Dirac operator" , Kluwer Acad. Publ. (1992)
[a3] J. Gilbert, M. Murray, "Clifford algebras and Dirac operators in harmonic analysis" , Cambridge Univ. Press (1991)
[a4] I.R. Porteous, "Clifford algebras and the classical groups" , Cambridge Univ. Press (1995)
[a5] "Clifford algebras in analysis and related topics" J. Ryan (ed.) , CRC (1996)
How to Cite This Entry:
Clifford analysis. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by F. Brackx (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article