Original Research

Factor rings of the Gaussian integers

Cody Patterson, Kirby C. Smith, Leon van Wyk
Suid-Afrikaanse Tydskrif vir Natuurwetenskap en Tegnologie | Vol 23, No 4 | a201 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/satnt.v23i4.201 | © 2004 Cody Patterson, Kirby C. Smith, Leon van Wyk | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 23 September 2004 | Published: 23 September 2004

About the author(s)

Cody Patterson, Departement Wiskunde, Texas A&M Universiteit, College Station, Texas, United States
Kirby C. Smith, Departement Wiskunde, Texas A&M Universiteit, College Station, Texas, United States
Leon van Wyk, Departement Wiskunde, Universiteit Stellenbosch, South Africa

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Whereas the homomorphic images of Z (the ring of integers) are well known, namely Z, {0} and Zn (the ring of integers modulo n), the same is not true for the homomorphic im-ages of Z[i] (the ring of Gaussian integers). More generally, let m be any nonzero square free integer (positive or negative), and consider the integral domain Z[ √m]={a + b √m | a, b ∈ Z}. Which rings can be homomorphic images of Z[ √m]? This ques-tion offers students an infinite number (one for each m) of investigations that require only undergraduate mathematics. It is the goal of this article to offer a guide to the in-vestigation of the possible homomorphic images of Z[ √m] using the Gaussian integers Z[i] as an example. We use the fact that Z[i] is a principal ideal domain to prove that if I =(a+bi) is a nonzero ideal of Z[i], then Z[i]/I ∼ = Zn for a positive integer n if and only if gcd{a, b} =1, in which case n = a2 + b2 . Our approach is novel in that it uses matrix techniques based on the row reduction of matrices with integer entries. By characterizing the integers n of the form n = a2 + b2 , with gcd{a, b} =1, we obtain the main result of the paper, which asserts that if n ≥ 2, then Zn is a homomorphic image of Z[i] if and only if the prime decomposition of n is 2α0 pα1 1 ··· pαk k , with α0 ∈{0, 1},pi ≡ 1(mod 4) and αi ≥ 0 for every i ≥ 1. All the fields which are homomorpic images of Z[i] are also determined.


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