Gromov's theorem on groups of polynomial growth

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In geometric group theory, Gromov's theorem on groups of polynomial growth, named for Mikhail Gromov, characterizes finitely generated groups of polynomial growth, as those groups which have nilpotent subgroups of finite index.

The growth rate of a group is a well-defined notion from asymptotic analysis. To say that a finitely generated group has polynomial growth means the number of elements of length (relative to a symmetric generating set) at most n is bounded above by a polynomial function p(n). The order of growth is then the least degree of any such polynomial function p.

A nilpotent group G is a group with a lower central series terminating in the identity subgroup.

Gromov's theorem states that a finitely generated group has polynomial growth if and only if it has a nilpotent subgroup that is of finite index.

There is a vast literature on growth rates, leading up to Gromov's theorem. An earlier result of Joseph A. Wolf showed that if G is a finitely generated nilpotent group, then the group has polynomial growth. Yves Guivarc'h and independently Hyman Bass (with different proofs) computed the exact order of polynomial growth. Let G be a finitely generated nilpotent group with lower central series

 G = G_1 \supseteq G_2 \supseteq \ldots.

In particular, the quotient group Gk/Gk+1 is a finitely generated abelian group.

The Bass–Guivarc'h formula states that the order of polynomial growth of G is

 d(G) = \sum_{k \geq 1} k \ \operatorname{rank}(G_k/G_{k+1})


rank denotes the rank of an abelian group, i.e. the largest number of independent and torsion-free elements of the abelian group.

In particular, Gromov's theorem and the Bass–Guivarch formula imply that the order of polynomial growth of a finitely generated group is always either an integer or infinity (excluding for example, fractional powers).

In order to prove this theorem Gromov introduced a convergence for metric spaces. This convergence, now called the Gromov–Hausdorff convergence, is currently widely used in geometry.

A relatively simple proof of the theorem was found by Bruce Kleiner. Later, Terence Tao and Yehuda Shalom modified Kleiner's proof to make an essentially elementary proof as well as a version of the theorem with explicit bounds.[1][2]


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  2. ^ Yehuda Shalom; Terence Tao (2009). "A finitary version of Gromov's polynomial growth theorem". arXiv:0910.4148 [math.GR]. 
  • H. Bass, The degree of polynomial growth of finitely generated nilpotent groups, Proceedings London Mathematical Society, vol 25(4), 1972
  • M. Gromov, Groups of Polynomial growth and Expanding Maps, Publications mathematiques I.H.É.S., 53, 1981
  • Y. Guivarc'h, Groupes de Lie à croissance polynomiale, C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris Sér. A–B 272 (1971). [1]
  • Kleiner, Bruce (2007). "A new proof of Gromov's theorem on groups of polynomial growth". arXiv:0710.4593. 
  • J. A. Wolf, Growth of finitely generated solvable groups and curvature of Riemannian manifolds, Journal of Differential Geometry, vol 2, 1968