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In mathematics, **differential rings**, **differential fields**, and **differential algebras** are rings, fields, and algebras equipped with finitely many derivations, which are unary functions that are linear and satisfy the Leibniz product rule. A natural example of a differential field is the field of rational functions in one variable over the complex numbers, , where the derivation is differentiation with respect to *t*.

**Differential algebra** refers also to the area of mathematics consisting in the study of these algebraic objects and their use for an algebraic study of the differential equations. Differential algebra was introduced by Joseph Ritt in 1950.^{[1]}

A *differential ring* is a ring *R* equipped with one or more *derivations*, that are homomorphisms of additive groups

such that each derivation ∂ satisfies the Leibniz product rule

for every . Note that the ring could be noncommutative, so the somewhat standard d(*xy*) = *x*d*y* + *y*d*x* form of the product rule in commutative settings may be false. If is multiplication on the ring, the product rule is the identity

where means the function which maps a pair to the pair .

Note that a differential ring is a (not necessarily graded) -differential algebra.

A differential field is a commutative field *K* equipped with derivations.

The well-known formula for differentiating fractions

follows from the product rule. Indeed, we must have

By the product rule, we then have

Solving with respect to , we obtain the sought identity.

If *K* is a differential field then *the field of constants* of *K* is

A differential algebra over a field *K* is a *K*-algebra *A* wherein the derivation(s) commutes with the scalar multiplication. That is, for all and one has

If is the ring homomorphism to the center of A defining scalar multiplication on the algebra, one has

As above, the derivation must obey the Leibniz rule over the algebra multiplication, and must be linear over addition. Thus, for all and one has

and

A derivation on a Lie algebra is a linear map satisfying the Leibniz rule:

For any , ad(*a*) is a derivation on , which follows from the Jacobi identity. Any such derivation is called an **inner derivation**. This derivation extends to the universal enveloping algebra of the Lie algebra.

If *A* is unital, then ∂(1) = 0 since ∂(1) = ∂(1 × 1) = ∂(1) + ∂(1). For example, in a differential field of characteristic zero , the rationals are always a subfield of the field of constants of .

Any ring is a differential ring with respect to the trivial derivation which maps any ring element to zero.

The field **Q**(*t*) has a unique structure as a differential field, determined by setting ∂(*t*) = 1: the field axioms along with the axioms for derivations ensure that the derivation is differentiation with respect to *t*. For example, by commutativity of multiplication and the Leibniz law one has that ∂(*u*^{2}) = *u* ∂(*u*) + ∂(*u*)*u* = 2*u*∂(*u*).

The differential field **Q**(*t*) fails to have a solution to the differential equation

but expands to a larger differential field including the function *e*^{t} which does have a solution to this equation.
A differential field with solutions to all systems of differential equations is called a differentially closed field. Such fields exist, although they do not appear as natural algebraic or geometric objects. All differential fields (of bounded cardinality) embed into a large differentially closed field. Differential fields are the objects of study in differential Galois theory.

Naturally occurring examples of derivations are partial derivatives, Lie derivatives, the Pincherle derivative, and the commutator with respect to an element of an algebra.

Differential rings and differential algebras are often studied by means of the ring of pseudo-differential operators on them.

This is the set of formal infinite sums

where means that the sum runs on all integers that are not greater than a fixed (finite) value.

This set is made a ring with the multiplication defined by linearly extending the following formula for "monomials":

where is the binomial coefficient. (If the sum is finite, as the terms with are all equal to zero.) In particular, one has

for *r* = 1, *m* = –1, and *n* = 0, and using the identity

- Differential Galois theory
- Kähler differential
- Differentially closed field
- A D-module is an algebraic structure with several differential operators acting on it.
- A differential graded algebra is a differential algebra with an additional grading.
- Arithmetic derivative
- Differential calculus over commutative algebras
- Difference algebra
- Differential algebraic geometry
- Picard–Vessiot theory
- Hardy field

- Buium, Alexandru (1994).
*Differential algebra and diophantine geometry*. Hermann. ISBN 978-2-7056-6226-4. - Kaplansky, Irving (1976).
*An introduction to differential algebra*(2nd ed.). Hermann. ISBN 9782705612511. - Kolchin, Ellis (1973).
*Differential Algebra & Algebraic Groups*. Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-08-087369-5. - Marker, David (2017) [1996]. "Model theory of differential fields". In Marker, David; Messmer, Margit; Pillay, Anand (eds.).
*Model Theory of Fields*. Lecture notes in Logic.**5**. Cambridge University Press. pp. 38–113. ISBN 978-1-107-16807-7. As PDF - Magid, Andy R. (1994).
*Lectures on Differential Galois Theory*. University lecture series.**7**. American Mathematical Society. ISBN 978-0-8218-7004-4.

- David Marker's home page has several online surveys discussing differential fields.