Definition 1. A ring R with 1 is called simple if (0) and R are the only two-sided ideals of R.

Remark 1. The center of a simple ring R is a field.

Proof. Let a be any non-zero element of the center of R. Then Ra is a non-zero two-sided ideal of R and hence, since R is simple, Ra=R. Thus there exists some r \in R such that ra=1, i.e. a is invertible. Since a is in the center, r is in the center too and we’re done. \Box

Obviously commutative simple rings are  just fields. So only non-commutative simple rings are interseting.

Note 1. If k is the center of a simple ring R, then R is both a vector space over k and a ring. So it is a k-algebra. The term simple algebras is commonly used instead of simple rings.

We now give the first example of simple rings.

Example 1. Let R be a ring with 1 and let M_n(R) be the ring of n \times n matrices with entries from R. It is a well-known fact, and easy to prove, that J is a two-sided ideal of M_n(R) if and only if J=M_n(I) for some two-sided ideal I of R. In particular, M_n(R) is simple if and only if R is simple. So, for example, since every division ring D is obviously simple, M_n(D) is simple too. In fact, by the Artin-Wedderburn  theorem, a ring R is simple and (left or right) Artinian if and only if R = M_n(D) for some division ring D and some integer n \geq 1.

Example 1 gives all simple rings which are Artinian. But what about simple rings which are not Artinian? We can find a family of non-Artinian simple rings by generalizing the concept of derivation in Calculus, as it follows.

Notation. From now on we will assume that k is a field and A is a k-algebra.

Definition 2. A k-linear map \delta : A \longrightarrow A is called a derivation of A if \delta(ab)=\delta(a)b + a \delta(b), for all a,b \in A. If there exists some c \in A such that \delta(a)=ca-ac, for all a \in A, then \delta is called an inner derivation.

Note that if c \in A, then the map \delta : A \longrightarrow A defined by \delta(a)=ca-ac, for all a \in A, is a derivation.

Remark 2. If \delta is a derivation of A, then \delta(1)=\delta(1 \cdot 1)=\delta(1)+\delta(1) and thus \delta(1)=0. Therefore if \alpha \in k, then \delta(\alpha)=\alpha \delta(1)=0.

Remark 3. Consider the polynomial algebra R:=A[x] and define the map \delta : R \longrightarrow R by \displaystyle \delta(f(x))=\frac{df}{dx}. Then \delta is a derivation which is not inner. The reason is that if there was g \in R such that \delta(f)=gf - fg, for all f \in R, then, since x is central, we’d get 1 = \delta(x) = gx-xg=0, which is non-sense.

Definition 3. Let \delta be a derivation of A. An ideal I of A is called a \deltaideal if \delta(I) \subseteq I. If the only \delta-ideals of A are \{0\} and A, we’ll say that A is \deltasimple.

Obviously if A is simple, then A is \delta-simple for every derivation \delta.

Remark 4. If \delta is an inner derivation of A, then every ideal of A is also a \delta-ideal. An obvious example of  a \delta-simple algebra is A=k[x] with \displaystyle \delta = \frac{d}{dx}.

Definition 4. If \delta is a derivation of A, then we define the  k-algebra A[x; \delta] to be the set of all polynomials in the indeterminate x and left coefficients in A, with the usual addition and multiplication and the rule xa=ax + \delta(a). The algebra A[x; \delta] is also called a differential polynomial algebra. Note that if \delta=0, i.e. \delta(a)=0 for all a \in A, then A[x; \delta]=A[x], the ordinary polynomial algebra.

Note 2. So a typical element of A[x; \delta] is in the form a_nx^n + a_{n-1}x^{n-1} + \cdots + a_0, where a_i \in A. When we multiply two of these polynomials we will have to use the rule given in Definition 4. For example

x(ax+b)=(xa)x + xb = (ax + \delta(a))x + bx +\delta(b)=ax^2 + (\delta(a)+b)x + \delta(b).

Of course, we need to prove that A[x;\delta] is a k-algebra but we won’t do it here.

Remark 5. Let a \in A and m \geq 1 be an inetger. Then an easy induction shows that in A[x; \delta] we have

\displaystyle x^ma=\sum_{i=0}^m \binom{m}{i} \delta^{m-i}(a)x^i,

where \delta^0(a)=a. So x^m a is a (left) polynomial of degree m with the leading coefficient a.

In part (2) we will give three important examples of simple rings.

  1. muhammad khalid says:

    division ring is a simple ring

    • Yaghoub Sharifi says:

      Yes, and that’s the trivial case n=1 in Example 1.
      In general, by Example 1, for any integer n \ge 1 and any division ring D, the ring of n \times n matrices with entries from D is both simple and Artinian.

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