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In mathematics, especially functional analysis, a Banach algebra, named after Stefan Banach, is an associative algebra A over the real or complex numbers which at the same time is also a Banach space. The algebra multiplication and the Banach space norm are required to be related by the following inequality:

\( \forall x, y \in A : \|x \, y\| \ \leq \|x \| \, \| y\| \)

(i.e., the norm of the product is less than or equal to the product of the norms). This ensures that the multiplication operation is continuous. This property is found in the real and complex numbers; for instance, |-6×5| ≤ |-6|×|5|.

If in the above we relax Banach space to normed space the analogous structure is called a normed algebra.

A Banach algebra is called "unital" if it has an identity element for the multiplication whose norm is 1, and "commutative" if its multiplication is commutative. Any Banach algebra A (whether it has an identity element or not) can be embedded isometrically into a unital Banach algebra \( A_e \) so as to form a closed ideal of A_e. Often one assumes a priori that the algebra under consideration is unital: for one can develop much of the theory by considering A_e and then applying the outcome in the original algebra. However, this is not the case all the time. For example, one cannot define all the trigonometric functions in a Banach algebra without identity.

The theory of real Banach algebras can be very different from the theory of complex Banach algebras. For example, the spectrum of an element of a complex Banach algebra can never be empty, whereas in a real Banach algebra it could be empty for some elements.

Banach algebras can also be defined over fields of p-adic numbers. This is part of p-adic analysis.


The prototypical example of a Banach algebra is \( C_0(X)\) , the space of (complex-valued) continuous functions on a locally compact (Hausdorff) space that vanish at infinity. \( C_0(X)\) is unital if and only if X is compact. The complex conjugation being an involution, \( C_0(X)\) is in fact a C*-algebra. More generally, every C*-algebra is a Banach algebra.

  • The set of real (or complex) numbers is a Banach algebra with norm given by the absolute value.
  • The set of all real or complex n-by-n matrices becomes a unital Banach algebra if we equip it with a sub-multiplicative matrix norm.
  • Take the Banach space Rn (or Cn) with norm ||x|| = max |xi| and define multiplication componentwise: (x1,...,xn)(y1,...,yn) = (x1y1,...,xnyn).
  • The quaternions form a 4-dimensional real Banach algebra, with the norm being given by the absolute value of quaternions.
  • The algebra of all bounded real- or complex-valued functions defined on some set (with pointwise multiplication and the supremum norm) is a unital Banach algebra.
  • The algebra of all bounded continuous real- or complex-valued functions on some locally compact space (again with pointwise operations and supremum norm) is a Banach algebra.
  • The algebra of all continuous linear operators on a Banach space E (with functional composition as multiplication and the operator norm as norm) is a unital Banach algebra. The set of all compact operators on E is a closed ideal in this algebra.
  • If G is a locally compact Hausdorff topological group and μ its Haar measure, then the Banach space L1(G) of all μ-integrable functions on G becomes a Banach algebra under the convolution xy(g) = ∫ x(h) y(h−1g) dμ(h) for x, y in L1(G).
  • Uniform algebra: A Banach algebra that is a subalgebra of C(X) with the supremum norm and that contains the constants and separates the points of X (which must be a compact Hausdorff space).
  • Natural Banach function algebra: A uniform algebra whose all characters are evaluations at points of X.
  • C*-algebra: A Banach algebra that is a closed *-subalgebra of the algebra of bounded operators on some Hilbert space.
  • Measure algebra: A Banach algebra consisting of all Radon measures on some locally compact group, where the product of two measures is given by convolution.


Several elementary functions which are defined via power series may be defined in any unital Banach algebra; examples include the exponential function and the trigonometric functions, and more generally any entire function. (In particular, the exponential map can be used to define abstract index groups.) The formula for the geometric series remains valid in general unital Banach algebras. The binomial theorem also holds for two commuting elements of a Banach algebra.

The set of invertible elements in any unital Banach algebra is an open set, and the inversion operation on this set is continuous, (and hence homeomorphism) so that it forms a topological group under multiplication.

If a Banach algebra has unit 1, then 1 cannot be a commutator; i.e., \( xy - yx \ne \mathbf{1}  \) for any x, y ∈ A.

The various algebras of functions given in the examples above have very different properties from standard examples of algebras such as the reals. For example:

Every real Banach algebra which is a division algebra is isomorphic to the reals, the complexes, or the quaternions. Hence, the only complex Banach algebra which is a division algebra is the complexes. (This is known as the Gelfand-Mazur theorem.)

Every unital real Banach algebra with no zero divisors, and in which every principal ideal is closed, is isomorphic to the reals, the complexes, or the quaternions.

Every commutative real unital Noetherian Banach algebra with no zero divisors is isomorphic to the real or complex numbers.

Every commutative real unital Noetherian Banach algebra (possibly having zero divisors) is finite-dimensional.

Permanently singular elements in Banach algebras are topological divisors of zero, i.e., considering extensions B of Banach algebras A some elements that are singular in the given algebra A have a multiplicative inverse element in a Banach algebra extension B. Topological divisors of zero in A are permanently singular in all Banach extension B of A.

Spectral theory
Main article: Spectral theory

Unital Banach algebras over the complex field provide a general setting to study spectral theory. The spectrum of an element x ∈ A, denoted by \sigma(x), consists of all those complex scalars λ such that x − λ1 is not invertible in A. The spectrum of any element x is a closed subset of the closed disc in C with radius ||x|| and center 0, and thus is compact. Moreover, the spectrum \sigma(x) of an element x is non-empty and satisfies the spectral radius formula:

\( \sup \{ |\lambda| : \lambda \in \sigma(x) \} = \lim_{n \to \infty} \|x^n\|^{1/n}.\)

Given x ∈ A, the holomorphic functional calculus allows to define ƒ(x) ∈ A for any function ƒ holomorphic in a neighborhood of \sigma(x). Furthermore, the spectral mapping theorem holds:

\( \sigma(f(x)) = f(\sigma(x)).\) [1]

When the Banach algebra A is the algebra L(X) of bounded linear operators on a complex Banach space X  (e.g., the algebra of square matrices), the notion of the spectrum in A coincides with the usual one in the operator theory. For ƒ ∈ C(X) (with a compact Hausdorff space X), one sees that:

\( \sigma(f) = \{ f(t) : t \in X \}.\)

The norm of a normal element x of a C*-algebra coincides with its spectral radius. This generalizes an analogous fact for normal operators.

Let A  be a complex unital Banach algebra in which every non-zero element x is invertible (a division algebra). For every a ∈ A, there is λ ∈ C such that a − λ1 is not invertible (because the spectrum of a is not empty) hence a = λ1 : this algebra A is naturally isomorphic to C (the complex case of the Gelfand-Mazur theorem).
Ideals and characters

Let A  be a unital commutative Banach algebra over C. Since A is then a commutative ring with unit, every non-invertible element of A belongs to some maximal ideal of A. Since a maximal ideal \mathfrak m in A is closed, A / \mathfrak m is a Banach algebra that is a field, and it follows from the Gelfand-Mazur theorem that there is a bijection between the set of all maximal ideals of A and the set Δ(A) of all nonzero homomorphisms from A  to C. The set Δ(A) is called the "structure space" or "character space" of A, and its members "characters."

A character χ is a linear functional on A which is at the same time multiplicative, χ(ab) = χ(a) χ(b), and satisfies χ(1) = 1. Every character is automatically continuous from A  to C, since the kernel of a character is a maximal ideal, which is closed. Moreover, the norm (i.e., operator norm) of a character is one. Equipped with the topology of pointwise convergence on A (i.e., the topology induced by the weak-* topology of A∗), the character space, Δ(A), is a Hausdorff compact space.

For any x ∈ A,

\( \sigma(x) = \sigma(\hat x)\)

where \( \hat x\) is the Gelfand representation of x defined as follows:\( \hat x\) is the continuous function from Δ(A) to C given by \( \hat x(\chi) = \chi(x)\) .  The spectrum of\( \hat x\) , in the formula above, is the spectrum as element of the algebra C(Δ(A)) of complex continuous functions on the compact space Δ(A). Explicitly,

\( \sigma(\hat x) = \{ \chi(x) : \chi \in \Delta(A) \}.\)

As an algebra, a unital commutative Banach algebra is semisimple (i.e., its Jacobson radical is zero) if and only if its Gelfand representation has trivial kernel. An important example of such an algebra is a commutative C*-algebra. In fact, when A is a commutative unital C*-algebra, the Gelfand representation is then an isometric *-isomorphism between A and C(Δ(A)) .[2]
See also

Operator algebras
Shilov boundary
Automatic continuity
Kaplansky's conjecture
Approximate identity


^ Takesaki, Theory of Operator Algebras I. Proposition 2.8.
^ Proof: Since every element of a commutative C*-algebra is normal, the Gelfand representation is isometric; in particular, it is injective and its image is closed. But the image of the Gelfand representation is dense by the Stone-Weierstrass theorem.


Béla Bollobás (1990). Linear Analysis. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38729-9.
Frank F. Bonsall, John Duncan (1973). Complete Normed Algebras. Springer-Verlag, New York. ISBN 0-387-06386-2.
H. Garth Dales, Pietro Aeina, Jörg Eschmeier, Kjeld Laursen, George A. Willis (2003). Introduction to Banach Algebras, Operators and Harmonic Analysis. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-53584-0.
Richard D. Mosak (1975). Banach algebras. Chicago Lectures in Mathematics. ISBN 0-226-54203-3.

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