Symplectic matrix

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In mathematics, a symplectic matrix is a 2n×2n matrix M with real entries that satisfies the condition






where MT denotes the transpose of M and Ω is a fixed 2n×2n nonsingular, skew-symmetric matrix. This definition can be extended to 2n×2n matrices with entries in other fields, e.g. the complex numbers.

Typically Ω is chosen to be the block matrix

where In is the n×n identity matrix. The matrix Ω has determinant +1 and has an inverse given by Ω−1 = ΩT = −Ω.

Every symplectic matrix has unit determinant, and the 2n×2n symplectic matrices with real entries form a subgroup of the special linear group SL(2n, R) under matrix multiplication, specifically a connected noncompact real Lie group of real dimension n(2n + 1), the symplectic group Sp(2n, R). The symplectic group can be defined as the set of linear transformations that preserve the symplectic form of a real symplectic vector space.

An example of a group of symplectic matrices is the group of three symplectic 2x2-matrices consisting in the identity matrix, the upper triagonal matrix and the lower triangular matrix, each with entries 0 and 1.


Every symplectic matrix is invertible with the inverse matrix given by

Furthermore, the product of two symplectic matrices is, again, a symplectic matrix. This gives the set of all symplectic matrices the structure of a group. There exists a natural manifold structure on this group which makes it into a (real or complex) Lie group called the symplectic group.

It follows easily from the definition that the determinant of any symplectic matrix is ±1. Actually, it turns out that the determinant is always +1 for any field. One way to see this is through the use of the Pfaffian and the identity

Since and we have that det(M) = 1.

When the underlying field is real or complex, elementary proof is obtained by factoring the inequality .[1]

Suppose Ω is given in the standard form and let M be a 2n×2n block matrix given by

where A, B, C, D are n×n matrices. The condition for M to be symplectic is equivalent to the two following equivalent conditions[2]

symmetric, and
symmetric, and

When n = 1 these conditions reduce to the single condition det(M) = 1. Thus a 2×2 matrix is symplectic iff it has unit determinant.

With Ω in standard form, the inverse of M is given by

The group has dimension n(2n + 1). This can be seen by noting that the group condition implies that

this gives equations of the form

where is the i,j-th element of M. The sum is antisymmetric with respect to indices i,j, and since the left hand side is zero when i differs from j, this leaves n(2n-1) independent equations.

Symplectic transformations[edit]

In the abstract formulation of linear algebra, matrices are replaced with linear transformations of finite-dimensional vector spaces. The abstract analog of a symplectic matrix is a symplectic transformation of a symplectic vector space. Briefly, a symplectic vector space is a 2n-dimensional vector space V equipped with a nondegenerate, skew-symmetric bilinear form ω called the symplectic form.

A symplectic transformation is then a linear transformation L : VV which preserves ω, i.e.

Fixing a basis for V, ω can be written as a matrix Ω and L as a matrix M. The condition that L be a symplectic transformation is precisely the condition that M be a symplectic matrix:

Under a change of basis, represented by a matrix A, we have

One can always bring Ω to either the standard form given in the introduction or the block diagonal form described below by a suitable choice of A.

The matrix Ω[edit]

Symplectic matrices are defined relative to a fixed nonsingular, skew-symmetric matrix Ω. As explained in the previous section, Ω can be thought of as the coordinate representation of a nondegenerate skew-symmetric bilinear form. It is a basic result in linear algebra that any two such matrices differ from each other by a change of basis.

The most common alternative to the standard Ω given above is the block diagonal form

This choice differs from the previous one by a permutation of basis vectors.

Sometimes the notation J is used instead of Ω for the skew-symmetric matrix. This is a particularly unfortunate choice as it leads to confusion with the notion of a complex structure, which often has the same coordinate expression as Ω but represents a very different structure. A complex structure J is the coordinate representation of a linear transformation that squares to −1, whereas Ω is the coordinate representation of a nondegenerate skew-symmetric bilinear form. One could easily choose bases in which J is not skew-symmetric or Ω does not square to −1.

Given a hermitian structure on a vector space, J and Ω are related via

where is the metric. That J and Ω usually have the same coordinate expression (up to an overall sign) is simply a consequence of the fact that the metric g is usually the identity matrix.

Diagonalisation and decomposition[edit]

  • For any positive definite real symplectic matrix S there exists U in U(2n,R) such that

where the diagonal elements of D are the eigenvalues of S.[3]
  • Any real symplectic matrix can be decomposed as a product of three matrices:

such that O and O' are both symplectic and orthogonal and D is positive-definite and diagonal.[4] This decomposition is closely related to the singular value decomposition of a matrix and is known as an 'Euler' or 'Bloch-Messiah' decomposition.

Complex matrices[edit]

If instead M is a 2n×2n matrix with complex entries, the definition is not standard throughout the literature. Many authors [5] adjust the definition above to






where M* denotes the conjugate transpose of M. In this case, the determinant may not be 1, but will have absolute value 1. In the 2×2 case (n=1), M will be the product of a real symplectic matrix and a complex number of absolute value 1.

Other authors [6] retain the definition (1) for complex matrices and call matrices satisfying (2) conjugate symplectic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rim, D. (2015). "An Elementary Proof That Symplectic Matrices Have Determinant One". arXiv:1505.04240Freely accessible. 
  2. ^ de Gosson, Maurice. "Introduction to Symplectic Mechcanics: Lectures I-II-III" (PDF). 
  3. ^ a b de Gosson, Maurice A. Symplectic Methods in Harmonic Analysis and in Mathematical Physics - Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-7643-9992-4. 
  4. ^ Ferraro et. al. 2005 Section 1.3. ... Title?
  5. ^ Xu, H. G. (July 15, 2003). "An SVD-like matrix decomposition and its applications". Linear Algebra and its Applications. 368: 1–24. doi:10.1016/S0024-3795(03)00370-7. 
  6. ^ Mackey, D. S.; Mackey, N. (2003). "On the Determinant of Symplectic Matrices". Numerical Analysis Report. 422. Manchester, England: Manchester Centre for Computational Mathematics. 

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