In the theory of Lie groups, the exponential map is a map from the Lie algebra of a Lie group to the group, which allows one to recapture the local group structure from the Lie algebra. The existence of the exponential map is one of the primary reasons that Lie algebras are a useful tool for studying Lie groups.
The ordinary exponential function of mathematical analysis is a special case of the exponential map when is the multiplicative group of positive real numbers (whose Lie algebra is the additive group of all real numbers). The exponential map of a Lie group satisfies many properties analogous to those of the ordinary exponential function, however, it also differs in many important respects.
It follows easily from the chain rule that . The map may be constructed as the integral curve of either the right- or left-invariant vector field associated with . That the integral curve exists for all real parameters follows by right- or left-translating the solution near zero.
We have a more concrete definition in the case of a matrix Lie group. The exponential map coincides with the matrix exponential and is given by the ordinary series expansion:
where is the identity matrix. Thus, in the setting of matrix Lie groups, the exponential map is the restriction of the matrix exponential to the Lie algebra of .
For a general G, there will not exist a Riemannian metric invariant under both left and right translations. Although there is always a Riemannian metric invariant under, say, left translations, the exponential map in the sense of Riemannian geometry for a left-invariant metric will not in general agree with the exponential map in the Lie group sense. That is to say, if G is a Lie group equipped with a left- but not right-invariant metric, the geodesics through the identity will not be one-parameter subgroups of G.
Other equivalent definitions of the Lie-group exponential are as follows:
It is the exponential map of a canonical left-invariant affine connection on G, such that parallel transport is given by left translation. That is, where is the unique geodesic with the initial point at the identity element and the initial velocity X (thought of as a tangent vector).
It is the exponential map of a canonical right-invariant affine connection on G. This is usually different from the canonical left-invariant connection, but both connections have the same geodesics (orbits of 1-parameter subgroups acting by left or right multiplication) so give the same exponential map.
The unit circle centered at 0 in the complex plane is a Lie group (called the circle group) whose tangent space at 1 can be identified with the imaginary line in the complex plane, The exponential map for this Lie group is given by
from the quotient by the lattice. Since is locally isomorphic to as complex manifolds, we can identify it with the tangent space , and the map
corresponds to the exponential map for the complex Lie group .
In the quaternions, the set of quaternions of unit length form a Lie group (isomorphic to the special unitary group SU(2)) whose tangent space at 1 can be identified with the space of purely imaginary quaternions, The exponential map for this Lie group is given by
The exponential map is a smooth map. Its differential at zero, , is the identity map (with the usual identifications).
It follows from the inverse function theorem that the exponential map, therefore, restricts to a diffeomorphism from some neighborhood of 0 in to a neighborhood of 1 in .
It is then not difficult to show that if G is connected, every element g of G is a product of exponentials of elements of :.
Globally, the exponential map is not necessarily surjective. Furthermore, the exponential map may not be a local diffeomorphism at all points. For example, the exponential map from (3) to SO(3) is not a local diffeomorphism; see also cut locus on this failure. See derivative of the exponential map for more information.
Surjectivity of the exponential
In these important special cases, the exponential map is known to always be surjective:
For groups not satisfying any of the above conditions, the exponential map may or may not be surjective.
The image of the exponential map of the connected but non-compact group SL2(R) is not the whole group. Its image consists of C-diagonalizable matrices with eigenvalues either positive or with modulus 1, and of non-diagonalizable matrices with a repeated eigenvalue 1, and the matrix . (Thus, the image excludes matrices with real, negative eigenvalues, other than .)
Exponential map and homomorphisms
Let be a Lie group homomorphism and let be its derivative at the identity. Then the following diagram commutes:
In particular, when applied to the adjoint action of a Lie group , since , we have the useful identity:
Given a Lie group with Lie algebra , each choice of a basis of determines a coordinate system near the identity element e for G, as follows. By the inverse function theorem, the exponential map is a diffeomorphism from some neighborhood of the origin to a neighborhood of . Its inverse:
is then a coordinate system on U. It is called by various names such as logarithmic coordinates, exponential coordinates or normal coordinates. See the closed-subgroup theorem for an example of how they are used in applications.