In mathematics, the special linear group SL(2, R) or SL2(R) is the group of 2 × 2 real matrices with determinant one:

Hyperbolic elements

The eigenvalues for a hyperbolic element are both real, and are reciprocals. Such an element acts as a squeeze mapping of the Euclidean plane, and the corresponding element of PSL(2, R) acts as a translation of the hyperbolic plane and as a Lorentz boost on Minkowski space.

Hyperbolic elements of the modular group act as Anosov diffeomorphisms of the torus.

Hyperbolic elements are conjugate into the 2 component group of standard squeezes × ±I: ${\displaystyle \left({\begin{smallmatrix}\lambda \\&\lambda ^{-1}\end{smallmatrix))\right)\times \{\pm I\))$; the hyperbolic angle of the hyperbolic rotation is given by arcosh of half of the trace, but the sign can be positive or negative: in contrast to the elliptic case, a squeeze and its inverse are conjugate in SL₂ (by a rotation in the axes; for standard axes, a rotation by 90°).

Conjugacy classes

By Jordan normal form, matrices are classified up to conjugacy (in GL(n, C)) by eigenvalues and nilpotence (concretely, nilpotence means where 1s occur in the Jordan blocks). Thus elements of SL(2) are classified up to conjugacy in GL(2) (or indeed SL±(2)) by trace (since determinant is fixed, and trace and determinant determine eigenvalues), except if the eigenvalues are equal, so ±I and the parabolic elements of trace +2 and trace -2 are not conjugate (the former have no off-diagonal entries in Jordan form, while the latter do).

Up to conjugacy in SL(2) (instead of GL(2)), there is an additional datum, corresponding to orientation: a clockwise and counterclockwise (elliptical) rotation are not conjugate, nor are a positive and negative shear, as detailed above; thus for absolute value of trace less than 2, there are two conjugacy classes for each trace (clockwise and counterclockwise rotations), for absolute value of the trace equal to 2 there are three conjugacy classes for each trace (positive shear, identity, negative shear), and for absolute value of the trace greater than 2 there is one conjugacy class for a given trace.

Iwasawa or KAN decomposition

The Iwasawa decomposition of a group is a method to construct the group as a product of three Lie subgroups K, A, N. For ${\displaystyle {\mbox{SL))(2,\mathbf {R} )}$ these three subgroups are

${\displaystyle \mathbf {K} =\left\((\begin{pmatrix}\cos \theta &-\sin \theta \\\sin \theta &\cos \theta \end{pmatrix))\in SL(2,\mathbb {R} )\ |\ \theta \in \mathbf {R} \right\}\cong SO(2),}$
${\displaystyle \mathbf {A} =\left\((\begin{pmatrix}r&0\\0&r^{-1}\end{pmatrix))\in SL(2,\mathbb {R} )\ |\ r>0\right\},}$
${\displaystyle \mathbf {N} =\left\((\begin{pmatrix}1&x\\0&1\end{pmatrix))\in SL(2,\mathbb {R} )\ |\ x\in \mathbf {R} \right\}.}$

These three elements are the generators of the Elliptic, Hyperbolic, and Parabolic subsets respectively.

Topology and universal cover

As a topological space, PSL(2, R) can be described as the unit tangent bundle of the hyperbolic plane. It is a circle bundle, and has a natural contact structure induced by the symplectic structure on the hyperbolic plane. SL(2, R) is a 2-fold cover of PSL(2, R), and can be thought of as the bundle of spinors on the hyperbolic plane.

The fundamental group of SL(2, R) is the infinite cyclic group Z. The universal covering group, denoted ${\displaystyle {\overline ((\mbox{SL))(2,\mathbf {R} )))}$, is an example of a finite-dimensional Lie group that is not a matrix group. That is, ${\displaystyle {\overline ((\mbox{SL))(2,\mathbf {R} )))}$ admits no faithful, finite-dimensional representation.

As a topological space, ${\displaystyle {\overline ((\mbox{SL))(2,\mathbf {R} )))}$ is a line bundle over the hyperbolic plane. When imbued with a left-invariant metric, the 3-manifold ${\displaystyle {\overline ((\mbox{SL))(2,\mathbf {R} )))}$ becomes one of the eight Thurston geometries. For example, ${\displaystyle {\overline ((\mbox{SL))(2,\mathbf {R} )))}$ is the universal cover of the unit tangent bundle to any hyperbolic surface. Any manifold modeled on ${\displaystyle {\overline ((\mbox{SL))(2,\mathbf {R} )))}$ is orientable, and is a circle bundle over some 2-dimensional hyperbolic orbifold (a Seifert fiber space).

Under this covering, the preimage of the modular group PSL(2, Z) is the braid group on 3 generators, B3, which is the universal central extension of the modular group. These are lattices inside the relevant algebraic groups, and this corresponds algebraically to the universal covering group in topology.

The 2-fold covering group can be identified as Mp(2, R), a metaplectic group, thinking of SL(2, R) as the symplectic group Sp(2, R).

The aforementioned groups together form a sequence:

${\displaystyle {\overline {\mathrm {SL} (2,\mathbf {R} )))\to \cdots \to \mathrm {Mp} (2,\mathbf {R} )\to \mathrm {SL} (2,\mathbf {R} )\to \mathrm {PSL} (2,\mathbf {R} ).}$

However, there are other covering groups of PSL(2, R) corresponding to all n, as n Z < Z ≅ π1 (PSL(2, R)), which form a lattice of covering groups by divisibility; these cover SL(2, R) if and only if n is even.

Algebraic structure

The center of SL(2, R) is the two-element group {±1}, and the quotient PSL(2, R) is simple.

Discrete subgroups of PSL(2, R) are called Fuchsian groups. These are the hyperbolic analogue of the Euclidean wallpaper groups and Frieze groups. The most famous of these is the modular group PSL(2, Z), which acts on a tessellation of the hyperbolic plane by ideal triangles.

The circle group SO(2) is a maximal compact subgroup of SL(2, R), and the circle SO(2) / {±1} is a maximal compact subgroup of PSL(2, R).

The Schur multiplier of the discrete group PSL(2, R) is much larger than Z, and the universal central extension is much larger than the universal covering group. However these large central extensions do not take the topology into account and are somewhat pathological.

Representation theory

 Main article: Representation theory of SL2(R)

SL(2, R) is a real, non-compact simple Lie group, and is the split-real form of the complex Lie group SL(2, C). The Lie algebra of SL(2, R), denoted sl(2, R), is the algebra of all real, traceless 2 × 2 matrices. It is the Bianchi algebra of type VIII.

The finite-dimensional representation theory of SL(2, R) is equivalent to the representation theory of SU(2), which is the compact real form of SL(2, C). In particular, SL(2, R) has no nontrivial finite-dimensional unitary representations. This is a feature of every connected simple non-compact Lie group. For outline of proof, see non-unitarity of representations.

The infinite-dimensional representation theory of SL(2, R) is quite interesting. The group has several families of unitary representations, which were worked out in detail by Gelfand and Naimark (1946), V. Bargmann (1947), and Harish-Chandra (1952).