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How can I construct the 4D real representation of SU(2)?

  1. Jul 30, 2015 #1
    An element of [itex]SU(2)[/itex], such as for example the rotation around the x-axis generated by the first Pauli matrice can be written as

    U(x) = e^{ixT_1} = \left(
    \cos\frac{x}{2} & i\sin\frac{x}{2} \\
    i\sin\frac{x}{2} & \cos\frac{x}{2} \\
    c & 0 & 0 & -s \\
    0 & c & s & 0 \\
    0 & -s & c & 0 \\
    s & 0 & 0 & c \\

    I assume that here [itex]c = \cos\frac{x}{2}[/itex] and [itex]s = \sin\frac{x}{2}[/itex].The last 4 by 4 matrice is said to be constructed by treating the real and complex parts of each complex number as two real numbers. However, when doing this I would rather have expected that each complex number in the 2 by 2 matrice is expanded into its own 2 by 2 matrice, such that the resulting 4 by 4 matrice would schematically look like

    U(x) =
    Re(U_{11}) & Im(U_{11}) & Re(U_{12}) & Im(U_{12}) \\
    Im(U_{11}) & Re(U_{11}) & Im(U_{12}) & Re(U_{12}) \\
    Re(U_{21}) & Im(U_{21}) & Re(U_{22}) & Im(U_{22}) \\
    Im(U_{21}) & Re(U_{21}) & Im(U_{11}) & Re(U_{22}) \\

    But this is obviously not how the 4 by 4 matrice is constructed. What am I missing or misunderstanding?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 31, 2015 #2


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    I think you want to let ##U## act on
    $$ U \begin{pmatrix} a+ib \\ c+ id \end{pmatrix} = \begin{pmatrix} a'+ib' \\ c'+ id' \end{pmatrix}$$
    and then rewrite this as a 4x4 matrix acting on ##(a~b~c~d)^T##. The reason that ##U_{4\times 4}## does not take the 2nd form you wrote is because of the factors of ##i## and ##i^2##.

    Note that this doesn't actually give what we would call a representation of the group, because, if we do the same mapping on the generators (Pauli matrices), the image matrices don't satisfy the SU(2) algebra. If you really want the 4-dimensional representation, then a good way to work it out is by noting that it is the spin 3/2 representation. Then we know how the ##J_\pm, J_z## act on the states ##|3/2,m\rangle## and we can work out appropriate matrices for them.
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