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Concept# Operator product expansion

Summary

In quantum field theory, the operator product expansion (OPE) is used as an axiom to define the product of fields as a sum over the same fields. As an axiom, it offers a non-perturbative approach to quantum field theory. One example is the vertex operator algebra, which has been used to construct two-dimensional conformal field theories. Whether this result can be extended to QFT in general, thus resolving many of the difficulties of a perturbative approach, remains an open research question.
In practical calculations, such as those needed for scattering amplitudes in various collider experiments, the operator product expansion is used in QCD sum rules to combine results from both perturbative and non-perturbative (condensate) calculations.
In 2D Euclidean field theory, operator product expansion is a Laurent series expansion associated with two operators. A Laurent series is a generalization of the Taylor series in that finitely many powers of the inverse of the expansion variable(s) are added to the Taylor series: pole(s) of finite order(s) are added to the series.
Heuristically, in quantum field theory one is interested in the result of physical observables represented by operators. If one wants to know the result of making two physical observations at two points and , one can time order these operators in increasing time.
If one maps coordinates in a conformal manner, one is often interested in radial ordering. This is the analogue of time ordering where increasing time has been mapped to some increasing radius on the complex plane. One is also interested in normal ordering of creation operators.
A radial-ordered OPE can be written as a normal-ordered OPE minus the non-normal-ordered terms. The non-normal-ordered terms can often be written as a commutator, and these have useful simplifying identities. The radial ordering supplies the convergence of the expansion.
The result is a convergent expansion of the product of two operators in terms of some terms that have poles in the complex plane (the Laurent terms) and terms that are finite.

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2022