In

functional analysisFunctional analysis is a branch of mathematical analysis, the core of which is formed by the study of vector spaces endowed with some kind of limit-related structure and the linear operators acting upon these spaces and respecting these structures in a suitable sense...

, a branch of

mathematicsMathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, a

**unitary operator** (not to be confused with a unity operator) is a bounded linear operator

*U* :

*H* →

*H* on a

Hilbert spaceThe mathematical concept of a Hilbert space, named after David Hilbert, generalizes the notion of Euclidean space. It extends the methods of vector algebra and calculus from the two-dimensional Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space to spaces with any finite or infinite number of dimensions...

*H* satisfying

where

*U*^{∗} is the

adjointIn mathematics, specifically in functional analysis, each linear operator on a Hilbert space has a corresponding adjoint operator.Adjoints of operators generalize conjugate transposes of square matrices to infinite-dimensional situations...

of

*U*, and

*I* :

*H* →

*H* is the

identityIn mathematics, the term identity has several different important meanings:*An identity is a relation which is tautologically true. This means that whatever the number or value may be, the answer stays the same. For example, algebraically, this occurs if an equation is satisfied for all values of...

operator. This property is equivalent to the following:

*U* preserves the inner product 〈 , 〉 of the Hilbert space, i.e., for all vectorA vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

s *x* and *y* in the Hilbert space,
*U* is surjectiveIn mathematics, a function f from a set X to a set Y is surjective , or a surjection, if every element y in Y has a corresponding element x in X so that f = y...

(a.k.a. onto).

It is also equivalent to the seemingly weaker condition:

*U* preserves the inner product, and
- the range of
*U* is denseIn topology and related areas of mathematics, a subset A of a topological space X is called dense if any point x in X belongs to A or is a limit point of A...

.

To see this, notice that

*U* preserves the inner product implies

*U* is an

isometryIn mathematics, an isometry is a distance-preserving map between metric spaces. Geometric figures which can be related by an isometry are called congruent.Isometries are often used in constructions where one space is embedded in another space...

(thus, a bounded linear operator). The fact that

*U* has dense range ensures it has a bounded inverse

*U*^{−1}. It is clear that

*U*^{−1} =

*U*^{∗}.

Thus, unitary operators are just

automorphismIn mathematics, an automorphism is an isomorphism from a mathematical object to itself. It is, in some sense, a symmetry of the object, and a way of mapping the object to itself while preserving all of its structure. The set of all automorphisms of an object forms a group, called the automorphism...

s of

Hilbert spaceThe mathematical concept of a Hilbert space, named after David Hilbert, generalizes the notion of Euclidean space. It extends the methods of vector algebra and calculus from the two-dimensional Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space to spaces with any finite or infinite number of dimensions...

s, i.e., they preserve the structure (in this case, the linear space structure, the inner product, and hence the

topologyTopology is a major area of mathematics concerned with properties that are preserved under continuous deformations of objects, such as deformations that involve stretching, but no tearing or gluing...

) of the space on which they act. The

groupIn mathematics, a group is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with an operation that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axioms, namely closure, associativity, identity...

of all unitary operators from a given Hilbert space

*H* to itself is sometimes referred to as the

**Hilbert group** of

*H*, denoted Hilb(

*H*).

The weaker condition

*U*^{∗}*U* =

*I* defines an

*isometry*. Another condition,

*U* *U*^{∗} =

*I*, defines a

*coisometry*.

A

**unitary element** is a generalization of a unitary operator. In a unital *-algebra, an element

*U* of the algebra is called a unitary element if

where

*I* is the identity element.

## Examples

- The identity function
In mathematics, an identity function, also called identity map or identity transformation, is a function that always returns the same value that was used as its argument...

is trivially a unitary operator.

- Rotations in
**R**^{2} are the simplest nontrivial example of unitary operators. Rotations do not change the length of a vector or the angle between 2 vectors. This example can be expanded to **R**^{3}.

- On the vector space
A vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

**C** of complex numberA complex number is a number consisting of a real part and an imaginary part. Complex numbers extend the idea of the one-dimensional number line to the two-dimensional complex plane by using the number line for the real part and adding a vertical axis to plot the imaginary part...

s, multiplication by a number of absolute valueIn mathematics, the absolute value |a| of a real number a is the numerical value of a without regard to its sign. So, for example, the absolute value of 3 is 3, and the absolute value of -3 is also 3...

1, that is, a number of the form *e*^{i θ} for *θ* ∈ **R**, is a unitary operator. *θ* is referred to as a phase, and this multiplication is referred to as multiplication by a phase. Notice that the value of *θ* modulo 2*π* does not affect the result of the multiplication, and so the independent unitary operators on **C** are parametrized by a circle. The corresponding group, which, as a set, is the circle, is called U(1).

- More generally, unitary matrices are precisely the unitary operators on finite-dimensional Hilbert space
The mathematical concept of a Hilbert space, named after David Hilbert, generalizes the notion of Euclidean space. It extends the methods of vector algebra and calculus from the two-dimensional Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space to spaces with any finite or infinite number of dimensions...

s, so the notion of a unitary operator is a generalization of the notion of a unitary matrix. Orthogonal matrices are the special case of unitary matrices in which all entries are real. They are the unitary operators on **R**^{n}.

- The bilateral shift on the sequence space
In mathematics, the Lp spaces are function spaces defined using a natural generalization of the p-norm for finite-dimensional vector spaces...

indexed by the integerThe integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

s is unitary. In general, any operator in a Hilbert space which acts by shuffling around an orthonormal basisIn mathematics, particularly linear algebra, an orthonormal basis for inner product space V with finite dimension is a basis for V whose vectors are orthonormal. For example, the standard basis for a Euclidean space Rn is an orthonormal basis, where the relevant inner product is the dot product of...

is unitary. In the finite dimensional case, such operators are the permutation matricesIn mathematics, in matrix theory, a permutation matrix is a square binary matrix that has exactly one entry 1 in each row and each column and 0s elsewhere...

. The unilateral shift is an isometry; its conjugate is a coisometry.

- The Fourier operator
The Fourier operator is the kernel of the Fredholm integral of the first kind that defines the continuous Fourier transform.It may be thought of as a limiting case for when the size of the discrete Fourier transform increases without bound while its spatial resolution also increases without bound,...

is a unitary operator, i.e. the operator which performs the Fourier transformIn mathematics, Fourier analysis is a subject area which grew from the study of Fourier series. The subject began with the study of the way general functions may be represented by sums of simpler trigonometric functions...

(with proper normalization). This follows from Parseval's theoremIn mathematics, Parseval's theorem usually refers to the result that the Fourier transform is unitary; loosely, that the sum of the square of a function is equal to the sum of the square of its transform. It originates from a 1799 theorem about series by Marc-Antoine Parseval, which was later...

.

- Unitary operators are used in unitary representation
In mathematics, a unitary representation of a group G is a linear representation π of G on a complex Hilbert space V such that π is a unitary operator for every g ∈ G...

s.

## Linearity

The linearity requirement in the definition of a unitary operator can be dropped without changing the meaning because it can be derived from linearity and positive-definiteness of the scalar product:

- Analogously you obtain .

## Properties

- The spectrum
In functional analysis, the concept of the spectrum of a bounded operator is a generalisation of the concept of eigenvalues for matrices. Specifically, a complex number λ is said to be in the spectrum of a bounded linear operator T if λI − T is not invertible, where I is the...

of a unitary operator *U* lies on the unit circle. That is, for any complex number λ in the spectrum, one has |λ|=1. This can be seen as a consequence of the spectral theoremIn mathematics, particularly linear algebra and functional analysis, the spectral theorem is any of a number of results about linear operators or about matrices. In broad terms the spectral theorem provides conditions under which an operator or a matrix can be diagonalized...

for normal operatorIn mathematics, especially functional analysis, a normal operator on a complex Hilbert space H is a continuous linear operatorN:H\to Hthat commutes with its hermitian adjoint N*: N\,N^*=N^*N....

s. By the theorem, *U* is unitarily equivalent to multiplication by a Borel-measurable *f* on *L*²(*μ*), for some finite measure space (*X*, *μ*). Now *U U** = *I* implies |*f*(*x*)|² = 1 *μ*-a.e. This shows that the essential range of *f*, therefore the spectrum of *U*, lies on the unit circle.