Example of an Element in the Product of Ideals that Cannot be Written as the Product of Two Elements

Problems and solutions of ring theory in abstract algebra

Problem 623

Let $I=(x, 2)$ and $J=(x, 3)$ be ideal in the ring $\Z[x]$.

(a) Prove that $IJ=(x, 6)$.

(b) Prove that the element $x\in IJ$ cannot be written as $x=f(x)g(x)$, where $f(x)\in I$ and $g(x)\in J$.

 
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Hint.

If $I=(a_1,\dots, a_m)$ and $J=(b_1, \dots, b_n)$ are ideals in a commutative ring, then we have
\[IJ=(a_ib_j),\] where $1\leq i \leq m$ and $1\leq j \leq n$.

Proof.

(a) Prove that $IJ=(x, 6)$.

Note that the product ideal $IJ$ is generated by the products of generators of $I$ and $J$, that is, $x^2, 2x, 3x, 6$. That is, $IJ=(x^2, 2x, 3x, 6)$.

It follows that $IJ$ contains $x=3x-2x$ as well. As the first three generators can be generated by $x$, we deduce that $IJ=(x, 6)$.

(b) Prove that the element $x\in IJ$ cannot be written as $x=f(x)g(x)$, where $f(x)\in I$ and $g(x)\in J$.

Assume that $x=f(x)g(x)$ for some $f(x)\in I$ and $g(x) \in J$.
As $\Z[x]$ is a UFD, we have either
\[f(x)=\pm x, g(x)=\pm 1, \text{ or } f(x)=\pm 1, g(x)=\pm x.\]

In the former case, we have $1\in J$ and hence $J=\Z[x]$, which is a contradiction.
Similarly, in the latter case, we have $1\in I$ and hence $I=\Z[x]$, which is a contradiction.
Thus, in either case, we reached a contradiction.

Hence, $x$ cannot be written as the product of elements in $I$ and $J$.

Comment.

Let $I$ and $J$ be an ideal of a commutative ring $R$.
Then the product of ideals $I$ and $J$ is defined to be
\[IJ:=\{\sum_{i=1}^k a_i b_i \mid a_i\in I, b_i\in J, k\in \N\}.\]

The above problems shows that in general, there are elements in the product $IJ$ that cannot be expressed simply as $ab$ for $a\in I$ and $b\in J$.


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