Infinitesimal generator (stochastic processes)

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This article is about infinitesimal generator for general stochastic processes. For generators for continuous time Markov chains, see transition rate matrix.

In mathematics — specifically, in stochastic analysis — the infinitesimal generator of a stochastic process is a partial differential operator that encodes a great deal of information about the process. The generator is used in evolution equations such as the Kolmogorov backward equation (which describes the evolution of statistics of the process); its L2 Hermitian adjoint is used in evolution equations such as the Fokker–Planck equation (which describes the evolution of the probability density functions of the process).


Let X : [0, +∞) × Ω → Rn defined on a probability space (Ω, Σ, P) be an Itô diffusion satisfying a stochastic differential equation of the form

where B is an m-dimensional Brownian motion and b : Rn → Rn and σ : Rn → Rn×m are the drift and diffusion fields respectively. For a point x ∈ Rn, let Px denote the law of X given initial datum X0 = x, and let Ex denote expectation with respect to Px.

The infinitesimal generator of X is the operator A, which is defined to act on suitable functions f : Rn → R by

The set of all functions f for which this limit exists at a point x is denoted DA(x), while DA denotes the set of all f for which the limit exists for all x ∈ Rn. One can show that any compactly-supported C2 (twice differentiable with continuous second derivative) function f lies in DA and that

or, in terms of the gradient and scalar and Frobenius inner products,

Generators of some common processes[edit]

  • Standard Brownian motion on Rn, which satisfies the stochastic differential equation dXt = dBt, has generator ½Δ, where Δ denotes the Laplace operator.
  • The two-dimensional process Y satisfying
where B is a one-dimensional Brownian motion, can be thought of as the graph of that Brownian motion, and has generator
  • The Ornstein–Uhlenbeck process on R, which satisfies the stochastic differential equation dXt = θ (μ − Xt) dt + σ dBt, has generator
  • Similarly, the graph of the Ornstein–Uhlenbeck process has generator
  • A geometric Brownian motion on R, which satisfies the stochastic differential equation dXt = rXt dt + αXt dBt, has generator

See also[edit]