# Unit (ring theory)

In mathematics, an invertible element or a unit in a (unital) ring R is any element u that has an inverse element in the multiplicative monoid of R, i.e. an element v such that

uv = vu = 1R, where 1R is the multiplicative identity.[1][2]

The set of units of any ring is closed under multiplication (the product of two units is again a unit), and forms a group for this operation. It never contains the element 0 (except in the case of the zero ring), and is therefore not closed under addition; its complement however might be a group under addition, which happens if and only if the ring is a local ring.

The term unit is also used to refer to the identity element 1R of the ring, in expressions like ring with a unit or unit ring, and also e.g. 'unit' matrix. For this reason, some authors call 1R "unity" or "identity", and say that R is a "ring with unity" or a "ring with identity" rather than a "ring with a unit".

The multiplicative identity 1R and its opposite −1R are always units. Hence, pairs of additive inverse elements[3] x and x are always associated.

## Examples

In any ring, 1 is a unit. More generally, any root of unity in a ring R is a unit: if rn = 1, then rn − 1 is a multiplicative inverse of r. On the other hand, 0 is never a unit (except in the zero ring). A ring R is a field (possibly non-commutative, also known as a skew field or division ring) if and only if U(R) = R ∖ {0}, where U(R) is the group of units of R. For example, the units of the real numbers R are R ∖ {0}. Thus, for any ring R, there is an inclusion

${\displaystyle {\text{roots of unity }}\subset U(R)\subset R\backslash \{0\}.}$

### Integers

In the ring of integers Z, the only units are +1 and −1.

Rings of integers ${\displaystyle R={\mathfrak {O}}_{F}}$ in a number field F have, in general, more units. For example,

(5 + 2)(5 − 2) = 1

in the ring Z[1 + 5/2], and in fact the unit group of this ring is infinite.

In fact, Dirichlet's unit theorem describes the structure of U(R) precisely: it is isomorphic to a group of the form

${\displaystyle \mathbf {Z} ^{n}\oplus \mu _{R}}$

where ${\displaystyle \mu _{R}}$ is the (finite, cyclic) group of roots of unity in R and n, the rank of the unit group is

${\displaystyle n=r_{1}+r_{2}-1,}$

where ${\displaystyle r_{1},r_{2}}$ are the numbers of real embeddings and the number of pairs of complex embeddings of F, respectively.

This recovers the above example: the unit group of (the ring of integers of) a real quadratic field is infinite of rank 1, since ${\displaystyle r_{1}=2,r_{2}=0}$.

In the ring Z/nZ of integers modulo n, the units are the congruence classes (mod n) represented by integers coprime to n. They constitute the multiplicative group of integers modulo n.

### Polynomials and power series

For a commutative ring R, the units of the polynomial ring R[x] are precisely those polynomials

${\displaystyle p(x)=a_{0}+a_{1}x+\dots a_{n}x^{n}}$

such that ${\displaystyle a_{0}}$ is a unit in R, and the remaining coefficients ${\displaystyle a_{1},\dots ,a_{n}}$ are nilpotent elements, i.e., satisfy ${\displaystyle a_{i}^{N}=0}$ for some N.[4] In particular, if R is a domain (has no zero divisors), then the units of R[x] agree with the ones of R. The units of the power series ring ${\displaystyle R[[x]]}$ are precisely those power series

${\displaystyle p(x)=\sum _{i=0}^{\infty }a_{i}x^{i}}$

such that ${\displaystyle a_{0}}$ is a unit in R.[5]

### Matrix rings

The unit group of the ring Mn(F) of n × n matrices over a field F is the group GLn(F) of invertible matrices.

## Group of units

The units of a ring R form a group U(R) under multiplication, the group of units of R. Other common notations for U(R) are R, R×, and E(R) (from the German term Einheit).

This defines a functor U from the category of rings to the category of groups: every ring homomorphism f : RS induces a group homomorphism U(f) : U(R) → U(S), since f maps units to units. This functor has a left adjoint which is the integral group ring construction.

## Associatedness

In a commutative unital ring R, the group of units U(R) acts on R via multiplication. The orbits of this action are called sets of associates; in other words, there is an equivalence relation ∼ on R called associatedness such that

rs

means that there is a unit u with r = us.

In an integral domain the cardinality of an equivalence class of associates is the same as that of U(R).