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Nilpotent Q[x]-Powered Groups

Stephen Majewicz

See ”Combinatorial Group Theory”,
Ben Fine et. al,
AMS Contemporary Mathematics
Volume 421, 2006
for proofs and more.

Results Leading to R-Completions

1. Suppose G is a nilpotent group of class c
and {g1, . . . , gn} ⊂ G. There exists c words (the
Hall-Petresco words) τk (ḡ) ∈ γk G satisfying
k k k
g1k · · · gn
k = τ1 (ḡ)k τ (ḡ) 2) · · · τ
( ( ) τc(ḡ) c ).
2 c−1 (ḡ) c−1

2. A f.g. torsion free nilpotent group G has a
poly-infinite cyclic and central series

1 = G0 ¢ G1 ¢ · · · ¢ Gn = G.
The length n of any such series is an invariant
of the group, called the Hirsch length of G. If
ui+1 ∈ Gi+1 satisfies Gi+1 = gp(ui+1, Gi) for
i = 0, . . . , n − 1, then every element g ∈ G can
be uniquely expressed as g = u1 1 · · · uαn .

We call {u1, . . . , un} a Mal’cev basis for G asso-
ciated with the poly-infinite cyclic and central
series {Gi}, and ᾱ = (α1, . . . , αn) the coordi-
nates of g.
3. Let G be as before. Then
α β f (ᾱ,β̄) f (ᾱ,β̄)
(u1 1 · · · uα n 1 βn
n )(u1 · · · un ) = u1
· · · unn
α g (ᾱ,λ) g (ᾱ,λ)
(u1 1 · · · uαn λ
n ) = u1
1 · · · unn ,
where each fi(ᾱ, β̄) for ᾱ, β̄ ∈ Zn is a polyno-
mial with rational coefficients in 2n variables
and each gi(ᾱ, λ) for λ ∈ Z is a polynomial with
rational coefficients in n + 1 variables.


Definition. A binomial ring, R, is an integral
domain of characteristic zero with unity such
that for any r ∈ R and k ∈ Z+,

³r ´ r(r − 1) · · · (r − k + 1)
= ∈ R.
k k!

Examples. Z, any field F of characteristic 0,
and F [x].
P. Hall’s idea: Let G be a f.g. torsion free
nilpotent group, u = {u1, . . . , un} a Mal’cev ba-
sis for G, and R any binomial domain. Define
the set
GR = {u1 1 · · · uα n
n | αi ∈ R}
(the R-completion of G with respect to u). Let
(f1(ᾱ, β̄), · · · , fn(ᾱ, β̄)) and (g1(ᾱ, λ), · · · , gn(ᾱ, λ))
be the multiplication and exponentiation poly-
nomials for G with respect to u. We can use
these polynomials for G to define multiplica-
tion and R-exponentiation for GR :

α β β
αn )(u 1 · · · u n ) = u 1 f (ᾱ,β̄) f (ᾱ,β̄)
1. (u1 1 · · · un 1 n 1 · · · unn

α αn )λ = u 1 g (ᾱ,λ) g (ᾱ,λ)
2. (u1 1 · · · un 1 · · · unn

where the αj ’s, βj ’s, and λ all lie in R.

Theorem. GR is a nilpotent group of the same
class as G.

Note. Every f.g. torsion free nilpotent group
G can be embedded into a divisible nilpotent
group, and any such group is Q-isomorphic to
GQ. This is Mal’cev’s Embedding Theorem.

Definition of a Nilpotent R-Powered Group

The notion of an R-completion triggered a more
axiomatic approach.

Definition Let G be any nilpotent group and R
a binomial domain. Suppose that for all g ∈ G
and α ∈ R, g α ∈ G is uniquely defined. Then
this R-action on G,

G × R → G defined by (g, α) 7→ g α,
makes G into a nilpotent R-group if the fol-
lowing axioms hold:

1. g 1 = g, g αg β = g α+β , and (g α)β = g αβ for
all g ∈ G and α, β ∈ R.

2. (h−1gh)α = h−1g αh for all g, h ∈ G
and α ∈ R.

α α α
3. g1α · · · gn
= τ1 (ḡ)ατ ( ) ( ) τk (ḡ) k )
2(ḡ) 2 · · · τk−1(ḡ) k−1

for every α ∈ R and gi ∈ G, where k is the
class of the nilpotent group gp (g1, . . . , gn).

The axioms yield (g µ)−1 = g −µ, g 0 = 1, and
1µ = 1 for every g ∈ G and µ ∈ R.

We will be concerned with R = Q[x]. Recall
that Q[x] is a Euclidean ring (hence, a PID and
a UFD). Since every PID satisfies the ascend-
ing chain condition, Q[x] is also a noetherian

Examples of Nilpotent Q[x]-Powered Groups

1. A Q[x]-completion of a f.g. torsion free
nilpotent group.

2. A Q[x]-module is an abelian Q[x]-group.

3. Let R̃ be any associative ring with unity
which contains Q[x] in its center, and let ρ
be an ideal of R̃ satisfying ρn+1 = 0. Then
G = {1 + a | a ∈ ρ} is a subgroup of the group
of units of R̃ and is nilpotent of class at most
n. For λ ∈ R̃ and g ∈ ρ, define
³λ´ ³λ´
(1 + g)λ = 1 + λg + g2 + ··· + g n ∈ G.
2 n
Then G, equipped with this Q[x]-action, is a
nilpotent Q[x]-powered group.


From this point on, G is a nilpotent Q[x]-powered
group unless otherwise told, and K is a bino-
mial subring of Q[x].

Definitions. H is a K-subgroup of G, denoted
by H ≤K G, if H ≤ G and g α ∈ H for all g ∈ H
and α ∈ K. If H £ G as well, then H is a normal
K-subgroup of G, denoted by H £K G.

Clearly, Z(G) £Q[x] G and the intersection of a
collection of K-subgroups of G is a K-subgroup
of G.

Lemma. If N £Q[x] G, then

gN = hN implies g β N = hβ N
for any g, h ∈ G and β ∈ Q[x].

Consequently, if N £Q[x] G, then the Q[x]-action
on G induces a Q[x]-action on G/N,

(gN )µ = g µN for all gN ∈ G/N and µ ∈ Q[x],
which turns G/N into a nilpotent Q[x]-powered

Definition. If S = {x1, . . . , xj } ⊂ G, then
H= {Hi} = gpK (x1, . . . , xj )
S⊂Hi ≤K G
is the K-subgroup of G which is K-generated
by {x1, . . . , xj }, and S is a set of K-generators
for H.

Definition. Suppose that H1, H2 ≤K G. Then

[H1, H2]K = gpK ([h1, h2] | h1 ∈ H1, h2 ∈ H2)
is the commutator K-subgroup of H1 and H2.
If H1, . . . , Hi are K-subgroups of G then recur-
sively define, for i > 2,

[H1, . . . , Hi]K = [[H1, . . . , Hi−1]K , Hi]K .
Definition. A chain of subgroups

1 = G0 ≤ G1 ≤ · · · ≤ Gn = G
is called a central Q[x]-series if Gi £Q[x] G and
Gi+1/Gi ≤Q[x] Z(G/Gi) for i = 0, 1, . . . , n − 1.

A lemma on products of Q[x]-subgroups:
Let N £Q[x] G and H ≤Q[x] G. Then HN ≤Q[x] G
and HN = gpQ[x](H, N ). If H £Q[x] G as well,
then HN £Q[x] G.

The definitions of Q[x]-homomorphism, a Q[x]-
monomorphism, etc. are the same as for ordi-
nary groups and respect the Q[x]-action.

Lemma. If φ ∈ Hom(G, Ḡ), then ker φ £Q[x] G
and im φ ≤Q[x] Ḡ.

The isomorphism theorems carry over to nilpo-
tent Q[x]-powered groups in a natural way.
Two Remarks on Abelian Q[x]-Groups

1. Every Q[x]-subgroup of a cyclic Q[x]-group
is a cyclic Q[x]-group (since Q[x] is a Euclidean

2. Every Q[x]-subgroup of a finitely Q[x]-generated
abelian Q[x]-group is finitely Q[x]-generated abelian
(since Q[x] is a noetherian ring).

Direct Products. The direct product of a
collection of nilpotent Q[x]-groups can be turned
into a nilpotent Q[x]-powered group by defin-
ing (g1, . . . , gi, . . .)α = (g1α, . . . , giα, . . .).

Theorem. Every finitely Q[x]-generated abelian
Q[x]-group is a direct product of cyclic Q[x]-
groups (since Q[x] is a PID).

Let the Games Begin!

Theorem. The subgroups of the upper and
lower central series of G, denoted by ζiG and
γiG respectively, are Q[x]-subgroups of G.

Recall that [g1, . . . , gn] = [[g1, . . . , gn−1], gn], where
[gj ] = gj .

Theorem. γnG = gp ([g1, . . . , gn] | gi ∈ G).

Lemma. [γiG, γj G]Q[x] ≤Q[x] γi+j G.

Theorem. For every integer i > 0, there is a
Q[x]-module epimorphism
Ψi : Ab(G) ··· Ab(G) → γiG/γi+1G
| {z }
i of these
defined by

Ψi(g1γ2G ⊗ · · · ⊗ giγ2G) = [g1, . . . , gi]γi+1G.

Corollary. Let G be finitely Q[x]-generated
with Q[x]-generators S = {s1, . . . , sp}. Then
γnG/γn+1G is a finitely generated Q[x]-module
generated by the set {[si1 , . . . , sin ]γn+1G} where
the sij ’s range over S.

Theorem. Every Q[x]-subgroup of a finitely
Q[x]-generated nilpotent Q[x]-powered group
is finitely Q[x]-generated.

Definition. Let P be a property of groups. A
1 = G0 ≤ G1 ≤ · · · ≤ Gn+1 = G
for G is a poly-Q[x] P series if Gi £Q[x] Gi+1 and
Gi+1/Gi is a P Q[x]-group for each 0 ≤ i ≤ n.

Theorem. G is finitely Q[x]-generated if and
only if it has a poly-Q[x] cyclic and central Q[x]-

The Hirsch Q[x]-length of G is the minimal
length of all poly-Q[x] cyclic and central Q[x]-
series’ for G.
Lemma. If G has nilpotency class c ≥ 2 and
g ∈ G, then H = gpQ[x](g, γ2G) is of class less
than c.

Torsion Sets

Definitions. g ∈ G is called a torsion element
if there exists a non-zero α ∈ Q[x] such that
g α = 1. The set of torsion elements of G is
denoted as τ (G), and G is a torsion Q[x]-group
if τ (G) = G. We say that G is torsion free if
g α = 1 implies that either g = 1 or α = 0.

Theorem. τ (G)£Q[x] G and G/τ (G) is torsion-
free. If G is torsion free and g, h ∈ G satisfies
g α = hα for some non-zero α ∈ Q[x], then
g = h.

Dehn’s Problems

The word problem, generalized word problem,
and the conjugacy problem are solvable for
finitely Q[x]-generated nilpotent Q[x]-groups.
Uniqueness Of Q[x]-Completions

Let G1 = (G, B1) and G2 = (G, B2) denote the
finitely generated torsion free nilpotent group,
G, with distinct Mal’cev bases B1 and B2, re-
Q[x] Q[x]
spectively. Then G1 and G2 are Q[x]-

Finite Type and π-Primary Q[x]-Groups

Definition. G is of finite type if it is a finitely
Q[x]-generated torsion Q[x]-group.

Lemma. If both H £Q[x] G and G/H are of
finite type, then G is of finite type.

Theorem. If G is finitely Q[x]-generated, then
Z(G) is of finite type if and only if G is of finite

Definition. Let π ∈ Q[x] be a prime. The
π-primary component of G is the set
Gπ = {g ∈ G | g π = 1 for some k ∈ Z+}.
G is termed a π-primary Q[x]-group if G = Gπ .
If G is a finitely Q[x]-generated π-primary Q[x]-
group, then G is of finite π-type.

Theorem. If π ∈ Q[x] is prime, then Gπ £Q[x] G.

Theorem. Suppose G is of finite type. If I is
some non-empty index set and {πi | i ∈ I} is
the set of all primes in Q[x], then G = i∈I Gπi .

Two Residual Properties

Definition. A finitely Q[x]-generated nilpotent
Q[x]-powered group, G, is finite dimensional
over Q if G has a poly-Q[x] cyclic and central
Q[x]-series 1 = G0 £ · · · £ Gq = G such that the
each of the factor Q[x]-groups Gi+1/Gi, viewed
as a vector space over Q, is finite dimensional
for each i = 0, . . . , q − 1.

Theorem. Every finitely Q[x]-generated nilpo-
tent Q[x]-powered group is residually finite di-
mensional over Q.
Theorem. Let G be finitely Q[x]-generated
and suppose g, h ∈ G such that g is not conju-
gate to h. Then there exists a nilpotent Q[x]-
powered group, B, of finite Hirsch Q[x]-length
which is finite dimensional over Q, and a Q[x]-
homomorphism φ : G → B such that φ(g) is
not conjugate to φ(h).

Theorem. Let G be finitely Q[x]-generated
and torsion free. For every prime π ∈ Q[x],
G is residually of finite π-type. (Requires the
notion of a π-radicable nilpotent Q[x]-powered

Last, but not least, every finitely Q[x]-generated
nilpotent Q[x]-powered group is hopfian (G is
hopfian if, whenever Φ : G → G is a Q[x]-
epimorphism, then Φ is a Q[x]-isomorphism).