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A Quick User’s Guide to Dieudonné Modules of p-Divisible Groups

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Last time we saw that if we consider a {p}-divisible group {G} over a perfect field of characteristic {p>0}, that there wasn’t a whole lot of information that went into determining it up to isomorphism. Today we’ll make this precise. It turns out that up to isomorphism we can translate {G} into a small amount of (semi-)linear algebra.

I’ve actually discussed this before here. But let’s not get bogged down in the details of the construction. The important thing is to see how to use this information to milk out some interesting theorems fairly effortlessly. Let’s recall a few things. The category of {p}-divisible groups is (anti-)equivalent to the category of Dieudonné modules. We’ll denote this functor {G\mapsto D(G)}.

Let {W:=W(k)} be the ring of Witt vectors of {k} and {\sigma} be the natural Frobenius map on {W}. There are only a few important things that come out of the construction from which you can derive tons of facts. First, the data of a Dieudonné module is a free {W}-module, {M}, of finite rank with a Frobenius {F: M\rightarrow M} which is {\sigma}-linear and a Verschiebung {V: M\rightarrow M} which is {\sigma^{-1}}-linear satisfying {FV=VF=p}.

Fact 1: The rank of {D(G)} is the height of {G}.

Fact 2: The dimension of {G} is the dimension of {D(G)/FD(G)} as a {k}-vector space (dually, the dimension of {D(G)/VD(G)} is the dimension of {G^D}).

Fact 3: {G} is connected if and only if {F} is topologically nilpotent (i.e. {F^nD(G)\subset pD(G)} for {n>>0}). Dually, {G^D} is connected if and only if {V} is topologically nilpotent.

Fact 4: {G} is étale if and only if {F} is bijective. Dually, {G^D} is étale if and only if {V} is bijective.

These facts alone allow us to really get our hands dirty with what these things look like and how to get facts back about {G} using linear algebra. Let’s compute the Dieudonné modules of the two “standard” {p}-divisible groups: {\mu_{p^\infty}} and {\mathbb{Q}_p/\mathbb{Z}_p} over {k=\mathbb{F}_p} (recall in this situation that {W(k)=\mathbb{Z}_p}).

Before starting, we know that the standard Frobenius {F(a_0, a_1, \ldots, )=(a_0^p, a_1^p, \ldots)} and Verschiebung {V(a_0, a_1, \ldots, )=(0, a_0, a_1, \ldots )} satisfy the relations to make a Dieudonné module (the relations are a little tricky to check because constant multiples {c\cdot (a_0, a_1, \ldots )} for {c\in W} involve Witt multiplication and should be done using universal properties).

In this case {F} is bijective so the corresponding {G} must be étale. Also, {VW\subset pW} so {V} is topologically nilpotent which means {G^D} is connected. Thus we have a height one, étale {p}-divisible group with one-dimensional, connected dual which means that {G=\mathbb{Q}_p/\mathbb{Z}_p}.

Now we’ll do {\mu_{p^\infty}}. Fact 1 tells us that {D(\mu_{p^\infty})\simeq \mathbb{Z}_p} because it has height {1}. We also know that {F: \mathbb{Z}_p\rightarrow \mathbb{Z}_p} must have the property that {\mathbb{Z}_p/F(\mathbb{Z}_p)=\mathbb{F}_p} since {\mu_{p^\infty}} has dimension {1}. Thus {F=p\sigma} and hence {V=\sigma^{-1}}.

The proof of the anti-equivalence proceeds by working at finite stages and taking limits. So it turns out that the theory encompasses a lot more at the finite stages because {\alpha_{p^n}} are perfectly legitimate finite, {p}-power rank group schemes (note the system does not form a {p}-divisible group because multiplication by {p} is the zero morphism). Of course taking the limit {\alpha_{p^\infty}} is also a formal {p}-torsion group scheme. If we wanted to we could build the theory of Dieudonné modules to encompass these types of things, but in the limit process we would have finite {W}-module which are not necessarily free and we would get an extra “Fact 5″ that {D(G)} is free if and only if {G} is {p}-divisible.

Let’s do two more things which are difficult to see without this machinery. For these two things we’ll assume {k} is algebraically closed. There is a unique connected, {1}-dimensional {p}-divisible of height {h} over {k}. I imagine without Dieudonné theory this would be quite difficult, but it just falls right out by playing with these facts.

Since {D(G)/FD(G)\simeq k} we can choose a basis, {D(G)=We_1\oplus \cdots \oplus We_h}, so that {F(e_j)=e_{j+1}} and {F(e_h)=pe_1}. Up to change of coordinates, this is the only way that eventually {F^nD(G)\subset pD(G)} (in fact {F^hD(G)\subset pD(G)} is the smallest {n}). This also determines {V} (note these two things need to be justified, I’m just asserting it here). But all the phrase “up to change of coordinates” means is that any other such {(D(G'),F',V')} will be isomorphic to this one and hence by the equivalence of categories {G\simeq G'}.

Suppose that {E/k} is an elliptic curve. Now we can determine {E[p^\infty]} up to isomorphism as a {p}-divisible group, a task that seemed out of reach last time. We know that {E[p^\infty]} always has height {2} and dimension {1}. In previous posts, we saw that for an ordinary {E} we have {E[p^\infty]^{et}\simeq \mathbb{Q}_p/\mathbb{Z}_p} (we calculated the reduced part by using flat cohomology, but I’ll point out why this step isn’t necessary in a second).

Thus for an ordinary {E/k} we get that {E[p^\infty]\simeq E[p^\infty]^0\oplus \mathbb{Q}_p/\mathbb{Z}_p} by the connected-étale decomposition. But height and dimension considerations tell us that {E[p^\infty]^0} must be the unique height {1}, connected, {1}-dimensional {p}-divisible group, i.e. {\mu_{p^\infty}}. But of course we’ve been saying this all along: {E[p^\infty]\simeq \mu_{p^\infty}\oplus \mathbb{Q}_p/\mathbb{Z}_p}.

If {E/k} is supersingular, then we’ve also calculated previously that {E[p^\infty]^{et}=0}. Thus by the connected-étale decomposition we get that {E[p^\infty]\simeq E[p^\infty]^0} and hence must be the unique, connected, {1}-dimensional {p}-divisible group of height {2}. For reference, since {ht(G)=\dim(G)+\dim(G^D)} we see that {G^D} is also of dimension {1} and height {2}. If it had an étale part, then it would have to be {\mu_{p^\infty}\oplus \mathbb{Q}_p/\mathbb{Z}_p} again, so {G^D} must be connected as well and hence is the unique such group, i.e. {G\simeq G^D}. It is connected with connected dual. This gives us our first non-obvious {p}-divisible group since it is not just some split extension of {\mu_{p^\infty}}‘s and {\mathbb{Q}_p/\mathbb{Z}_p}‘s.

If we hadn’t done these previous calculations, then we could still have gotten these results by a slightly more general argument. Given an abelian variety {A/k} we have that {A[p^\infty]} is a {p}-divisible group of height {2g} where {g=\dim A}. Using Dieudonné theory we can abstractly argue that {A[p^\infty]^{et}} must have height less than or equal to {g}. So in the case of an elliptic curve it is {1} or {0} corresponding to the ordinary or supersingular case respectively, and the proof would be completed because {\mathbb{Q}_p/\mathbb{Z}_p} is the unique étale, height {1}, {p}-divisible group.

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Author: hilbertthm90

I am a mathematics graduate student fascinated in how all my interests fit together.

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