Weyl quantization

Weyl quantization

In mathematics and physics, in the area of quantum mechanics, Weyl quantization is a method for systematically associating a "quantum mechanical" Hermitian operator with a "classical" kernel function in phase space invertibly. A synonym is phase-space quantization.

The crucial correspondence map from phase-space functions to Hilbert space operators underlying the method is called the Weyl transformation, (not to be confused with a different definition of the Weyl transformation), and was first detailed by Hermann Weyl[1] in 1927.

In some contrast to Weyl's original intentions in seeking a consistent quantization scheme, this map merely amounts to a change of representation. It need not connect "classical" with "quantum" quantities: the starting phase-space function may well depend on Planck's constant ħ. Indeed, in some familiar cases involving angular momentum, it does.

The inverse of this Weyl transformation is the Wigner map, which reverts from Hilbert space to the phase-space representation, (cf. the Wigner quasi-probability distribution, which is the Wigner map of the quantum density matrix).

This invertible representation change then allows expressing quantum mechanics in phase space, as was appreciated in the 1940s by Groenewold [2] and Moyal.[3]



The following illustrates the Weyl transformation on the simplest, two-dimensional Euclidean phase space. Let the coordinates on phase space be (q,p), and let f be a function defined everywhere on phase space.

The Weyl transform of f is given by the following operator in Hilbert space, broadly analogous to a Dirac delta function,

 \Phi [f] = \frac{1}{(2\pi)^2}\iint\!\!\! \iint f(q,p) \left(e^{i(a(Q-q)
+b(P-p))}\right)  \text{d}q\, \text{d}p\, \text{d}a\, \text{d}b.

Here, the operators P and Q are taken to be the generators of a Lie algebra, the Heisenberg algebra:


where ħ is the reduced Planck constant. A general element of the Heisenberg algebra may thus be written as aQ+bP+c .

The exponential map of this element of the Lie algebra is then an element of the corresponding Lie group,


the Heisenberg group. Given some particular group representation Φ of the Heisenberg group, the quantity

\Phi [ e^{iaq+ibp+ic} ]\,

denotes the element of the representation corresponding to the group element g.

This Weyl map may also be expressed in terms of the integral kernel matrix elements of the operator,

  \langle x| \Phi [f] |y \rangle = \int_{-\infty}^\infty {\text{d}p\over h} ~e^{ip(x-y)/\hbar}~ f\left({x+y\over2},p\right) .

The inverse of the above Weyl map is the Wigner map, which takes the operator Φ back to the original phase-space kernel function f ,

 f(q,p)= 2  \int_{-\infty}^\infty \text{d}y~e^{-2ipy/\hbar}~ \langle q-y| \Phi [f] |q+y \rangle.

In general, the resulting function f depends on Planck's constant ħ, and may well describe quantum-mechanical processes, provided it is properly composed through the star product, below.[4]

For example, the Wigner map of the quantum angular-momentum-squared operator L2 is not just the classical angular momentum squared, but it further contains a term − 3ħ2/2, which accounts for the nonvanishing angular momentum of the ground-state Bohr orbit.


Typically, the standard quantum-mechanical representation of the Heisenberg group is through its (Lie Algebra) generators: a pair of self-adjoint (Hermitian) operators on some Hilbert space \scriptstyle \mathcal{H}, such that their commutator, a central element of the group, amounts to the identity on that Hilbert space,

[P,Q]=PQ-QP=-i\hbar ~  \operatorname{Id}_\mathcal{H},

the quantum Canonical commutation relation‎. The Hilbert space may be taken to be the set of square integrable functions on the real number line (the plane waves), or a more bounded set, such as Schwartz space. Depending on the space involved, various results follow:

  • If f is a real-valued function, then its Weyl-map image Φ[f] is self-adjoint.
  • More generally, Φ[f] is a densely defined unbounded operator.
  • For the standard representation of the Heisenberg group by square integrable functions, the map Φ[f] is one-to-one on the Schwartz space (as a subspace of the square-integrable functions).

Deformation quantization

Intuitively, a deformation of a mathematical object is a family of the same kind of objects that depend on some parameter(s). The basic setup in deformation (quantization) theory is to start with an algebraic structure (say a Lie algebra) and ask: Does there exist a one or more parameter(s) family of similar structures, such that for an initial value of the parameter(s) one gets the same structure (Lie algebra) one started with? E.g., one may define a noncommutative torus as a deformation quantization through a ∗-product to implicitly address all convergence subtleties (usually not addressed in formal deformation quantization).

Insofar as the algebra of functions on a space determines the geometry of that space, the study of the star product leads to the study of a non-commutative geometry deformation of that space. In the context of the above flat phase-space example, the star product (Moyal product, actually introduced by Groenewold in 1946), ∗ħ, of a pair of functions in f1,f2C(ℜ2), is specified by

\Phi [f_1 *_h f_2] = \Phi [f_1]\Phi [f_2].\,

The star product is not commutative in general, but goes over to the ordinary commutative product of functions in the limit of ħ → 0. As such, it is said to define a deformation of the commutative algebra of C(ℜ2).

For the Weyl-map example above, the ∗-product may be written in terms of the Poisson bracket as

f_1 *_h f_2 = \sum_{n=0}^\infty \frac {1}{n!} \left(\frac{i\hbar}{2} \right)^n  \Pi^n(f_1, f_2).

Here, Π is an operator defined such that its powers are

Π0(f1,f2) = f1f2


\frac{\partial f_1}{\partial q}
\frac{\partial f_2}{\partial p} - 
\frac{\partial f_1}{\partial p}
\frac{\partial f_2}{\partial q}

where {f1 , f2} is the Poisson bracket. More generally,

\Pi^n(f_1,f_2)=  \sum_{k=0}^n (-1)^k {n \choose k}
\frac{\partial^k }{\partial p^k} 
\frac{\partial^{n-k}}{\partial q^{n-k}} f_1
\right) \times \left( 
\frac{\partial^{n-k} }{\partial p^{n-k}}
\frac{\partial^k}{\partial q^k} f_2

where {n \choose k} is the binomial coefficient.

This formula is predicated on coordinates in which the Poisson bivector is constant (plain flat Poisson brackets). For the general formula on arbitrary Poisson manifolds, cf. the Kontsevich quantization formula.

Antisymmetrization of this ∗-product yields the Moyal bracket, the proper quantum deformation of the Poisson bracket, and the phase-space isomorph of the quantum commutator in the more usual Hilbert-space formulation of quantum mechanics. As such, it provides the cornerstone of the dynamical equations of observables in this phase-space formulation.

There results a complete phase-space representation of quantum mechanics, completely equivalent to the Hilbert-space operator representation, with star-multiplications paralleling operator multiplications isomorphically.[5]

Expectation values in phase-space quantization are obtained isomorphically to tracing operator observables Φ with the density matrix in Hilbert space: they are obtained by phase-space integrals of observables such as the above f with the Wigner quasi-probability distribution effectively serving as a measure.

Thus, by expressing quantum mechanics in phase space (the same ambit as for classical mechanics), the above Weyl map facilitates recognition of quantum mechanics as a deformation (generalization) of classical mechanics, with deformation parameter ħ/S. (Other familiar deformations in physics involve the deformation of classical Newtonian into relativistic mechanics, with deformation parameter v/c; or the deformation of Newtonian gravity into General Relativity, with deformation parameter Schwarzschild-radius/characteristic-dimension.)

Classical expressions, observables, and operations (such as Poisson brackets) are modified by ħ-dependent quantum corrections, as the conventional commutative multiplication applying in classical mechanics is generalized to the noncommutative star-multiplication characterizing quantum mechanics and underlying its uncertainty principle.


In more generality, Weyl quantization is studied in cases where the phase space is a symplectic manifold, or possibly a Poisson manifold. Related structures include the Poisson–Lie groups and Kac–Moody algebras.

See also


  1. ^ H.Weyl, "Quantenmechanik und Gruppentheorie", Zeitschrift für Physik, 46 (1927) pp. 1–46, doi:10.1007/BF02055756.
  2. ^ H.J. Groenewold, "On the Principles of elementary quantum mechanics",Physica,12 (1946) pp. 405–46. doi:10.1016/S0031-8914(46)80059-4
  3. ^ J.E. Moyal, "Quantum mechanics as a statistical theory", Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 45 (1949) pp. 99–124. doi:10.1017/S0305004100000487
  4. ^ R. Kubo, "Wigner Representation of Quantum Operators and Its Applications to Electrons in a Magnetic Field", Jou. Phys. Soc. Japan,19 (1964) pp. 2127–2139, doi:10.1143/JPSJ.19.2127.
  5. ^ C. Zachos, D. Fairlie, and T. Curtright, "Quantum Mechanics in Phase Space" ( World Scientific, Singapore, 2005) ISBN 978-981-238-384-6 .

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