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In mathematics, a zero element is one of several generalizations of the number zero to other algebraic structures. These alternate meanings may or may not reduce to the same thing, depending on the context.

Additive identitiesEdit

An additive identity is the identity element in an additive group. It generalises the property 0 + x = x. Examples include:

Absorbing elementsEdit

An absorbing element in a multiplicative semigroup or semiring generalises the property 0 ⋅ x = 0. Examples include:

Many absorbing elements are also additive identities, including the empty set and the zero function. Another important example is the distinguished element 0 in a field or ring, which is both the additive identity and the multiplicative absorbing element, and whose principal ideal is the smallest ideal.

Zero objectsEdit

A zero object in a category is both an initial and terminal object (and so an identity under both coproducts and products). For example, the trivial structure (containing only the identity) is a zero object in categories where morphisms must map identities to identities. Specific examples include:

  • The trivial group, containing only the identity (a zero object in the category of groups)
  • The zero module, containing only the identity (a zero object in the category of modules over a ring)

Zero morphismsEdit

A zero morphism in a category is a generalised absorbing element under function composition: any morphism composed with a zero morphism gives a zero morphism. Specifically, if 0XY : XY is the zero morphism among morphisms from X to Y, and f : AX and g : YB are arbitrary morphisms, then g ∘ 0XY = 0XB and 0XYf = 0AY.

If a category has a zero object 0, then there are canonical morphisms X0 and 0Y, and composing them gives a zero morphism 0XY : XY. In the category of groups, for example, zero morphisms are morphisms which always return group identities, thus generalising the function z(x) = 0.

Least elementsEdit

A least element in a partially ordered set or lattice may sometimes be called a zero element, and written either as 0 or ⊥.

Zero moduleEdit

In mathematics, the zero module is the module consisting of only the additive identity for the module's addition function. In the integers, this identity is zero, which gives the name zero module. That the zero module is in fact a module is simple to show; it is closed under addition and multiplication trivially.

Zero idealEdit

In mathematics, the zero ideal in a ring   is the ideal   consisting of only the additive identity (or zero element). It is immediate to show that this is an ideal.

Zero matrixEdit

In mathematics, particularly linear algebra, a zero matrix is a matrix with all its entries being zero. Some examples of zero matrices are

 

The set of m × n matrices with entries in a ring K forms a module  . The zero matrix   in   is the matrix with all entries equal to  , where   is the additive identity in K.

 

The zero matrix is the additive identity in  . That is, for all   it satisfies

 

There is exactly one zero matrix of any given size m × n having entries in a given ring, so when the context is clear one often refers to the zero matrix. In general the zero element of a ring is unique and typically denoted as 0 without any subscript to indicate the parent ring. Hence the examples above represent zero matrices over any ring.

The zero matrix represents the linear transformation sending all vectors to the zero vector.

Zero tensorEdit

In mathematics, the zero tensor is a tensor, of any order, all of whose components are zero. The zero tensor of order 1 is sometimes known as the zero vector.

Taking a tensor product of any tensor with any zero tensor results in another zero tensor. Adding the zero tensor is equivalent to the identity operation.

See alsoEdit