Local quantum field theory


The Haag–Kastler axiomatic framework for quantum field theory, introduced by Haag and Kastler (1964), is an application to local quantum physics of C*-algebra theory. Because of this it is also known as algebraic quantum field theory (AQFT). The axioms are stated in terms of an algebra given for every open set in Minkowski space, and mappings between those.

Haag–Kastler axiomsEdit

Let   be the set of all open and bounded subsets of Minkowski space. An algebraic quantum field theory is defined via a net   of von Neumann algebras   on a common Hilbert space   satisfying the following axioms:[1]

  • Isotony:   implies  .
  • Causality: If   is space-like separated from  , then  .
  • Poincaré covariance: A strongly continuous unitary representation   of the Poincaré group   on   exists such that  ,  .
  • Spectrum condition: The joint spectrum   of the energy-momentum operator   (i.e. the generator of space-time translations) is contained in the closed forward lightcone.
  • Existence of a vacuum vector: A cyclic and Poincaré-invariant vector   exists.

The net algebras   are called local algebras and the C* algebra   is called the quasilocal algebra.

Category-theoretic formulationEdit

Let Mink be the category of open subsets of Minkowski space M with inclusion maps as morphisms. We are given a covariant functor   from Mink to uC*alg, the category of unital C* algebras, such that every morphism in Mink maps to a monomorphism in uC*alg (isotony).

The Poincaré group acts continuously on Mink. There exists a pullback of this action, which is continuous in the norm topology of   (Poincaré covariance).

Minkowski space has a causal structure. If an open set V lies in the causal complement of an open set U, then the image of the maps




commute (spacelike commutativity). If   is the causal completion of an open set U, then   is an isomorphism (primitive causality).

A state with respect to a C*-algebra is a positive linear functional over it with unit norm. If we have a state over  , we can take the "partial trace" to get states associated with   for each open set via the net monomorphism. The states over the open sets form a presheaf structure.

According to the GNS construction, for each state, we can associate a Hilbert space representation of   Pure states correspond to irreducible representations and mixed states correspond to reducible representations. Each irreducible representation (up to equivalence) is called a superselection sector. We assume there is a pure state called the vacuum such that the Hilbert space associated with it is a unitary representation of the Poincaré group compatible with the Poincaré covariance of the net such that if we look at the Poincaré algebra, the spectrum with respect to energy-momentum (corresponding to spacetime translations) lies on and in the positive light cone. This is the vacuum sector.

QFT in curved spacetimeEdit

More recently, the approach has been further implemented to include an algebraic version of quantum field theory in curved spacetime. Indeed, the viewpoint of local quantum physics is in particular suitable to generalize the renormalization procedure to the theory of quantum fields developed on curved backgrounds. Several rigorous results concerning QFT in presence of a black hole have been obtained.


  1. ^ Baumgärtel, Hellmut (1995). Operatoralgebraic Methods in Quantum Field Theory. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. ISBN 3-05-501655-6.

Further readingEdit

  • Haag, Rudolf; Kastler, Daniel (1964), "An algebraic approach to quantum field theory", Journal of Mathematical Physics, 5: 848–861, Bibcode:1964JMP.....5..848H, doi:10.1063/1.1704187, ISSN 0022-2488, MR 0165864
  • Haag, Rudolf (1996) [1992], Local quantum physics, Texts and Monographs in Physics (2nd ed.), Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-540-61451-7, MR 1405610

External linksEdit

  • Local Quantum Physics Crossroads 2.0 – A network of scientists working on local quantum physics
  • Papers – A database of preprints on algebraic QFT
  • Algebraic Quantum Field Theory – AQFT resources at the University of Hamburg