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In mathematics, an AW*-algebra is an algebraic generalization of a W*-algebra. They were introduced by Irving Kaplansky in 1951.[1] As operator algebras, von Neumann algebras, among all C*-algebras, are typically handled using one of two means: they are the dual space of some Banach space, and they are determined to a large extent by their projections. The idea behind AW*-algebras is to forego the former, topological, condition, and use only the latter, algebraic, condition.


Recall that a projection of a C*-algebra A is an element p \in A satisfying p^*=p=p^2.

A C*-algebra A is an AW*-algebra when for every subset S \subseteq A, the right annihilator

\mathrm{Ann}_R(S)=\{a\in A\mid \forall s\in S, as=0 \}\,

is generated as a left ideal by some projection p of A, and similarly the left annihilator is generated as a right ideal by some projection q:

\forall S \subseteq A\, \exists p,q \in \mathrm{Proj}(A) \colon \mathrm{Ann}_R(S)=Ap, \quad \mathrm{Ann}_L(S)=qA.

Hence an AW*-algebra is a C*-algebras that is at the same time a Baer *-ring.

Structure theory[edit]

Many results concerning von Neumann algebras carry over to AW*-algebras. For example, AW*-algebras can be classified according to the behavior of their projections, and decompose into types.[2] For another example, normal matrices with entries in an AW*-algebra can always be diagonalized.[3] AW*-algebras also always have polar decomposition.[4]

However, there are also ways in which AW*-algebras behave differently from von Neumann algebras.[5] For example, AW*-algebras of type I can exhibit pathological properties,[6] even though Kaplansky already showed that such algebras with trivial center are automatically von Neumann algebras.

The commutative case[edit]

By Gelfand duality, any commutative C*-algebra A is isomorphic to the algebra of continuous functions X \to \mathbb{C} for some compact Hausdorff space X. If A is an AW*-algebra, then X is in fact a Stonean space. Via Stone duality, commutative AW*-algebras therefore correspond to complete Boolean algebras. The projections of a commutative AW*-algebra form a complete Boolean algebra, and conversely, any complete Boolean algebra is isomorphic to the projections of some commutative AW*-algebra.


  1. ^ Kaplansky, Irving (1951). "Projections in Banach algebras". Annals of Mathematics 53 (2): 235–249. doi:10.2307/1969540. 
  2. ^ Berberian, Sterling (1972). Baer *-rings. Springer. 
  3. ^ Heunen, Chris; Reyes, Manuel L. (2013). "Diagonalizing matrices over AW*-algebras". Journal of Functional Analysis 264 (8): 1873–1898. doi:10.1016/j.jfa.2013.01.022. 
  4. ^ Ara, Pere (1989). "Left and right projections are equivalent in Rickart C*-algebras". Journal of Algebra 120 (2): 433–448. doi:10.1016/0021-8693(89)90209-3. 
  5. ^ Wright, J. D. Maitland. "AW*-algebra". Springer. 
  6. ^ Ozawa, Masanao (1984). "Nonuniqueness of the cardinality attached to homogeneous AW*-algebras". Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society 93: 681–684.