Posted by Jason Polak on 31. August 2017 · Write a comment · Categories: ring-theory · Tags:

Let $R$ be an associative ring. An element $r\in R$ is called nilpotent if $r^n = 0$ for some $n$. There is a stronger notion: an element $r\in R$ is called strongly nilpotent if every sequence $r = r_0,r_1,r_2,\dots$ such that $r_{n+1}\in r_nRr_n$ is eventually zero.

How are these two related? It is always the case that a strongly nilpotent element is nilpotent, because if $r$ is strongly nilpotent then the sequence $r,r^2,r^4,r^8,\dots$ vanishes. However, the element
$$\begin{pmatrix}0 & 1\\ 0 & 0\end{pmatrix}$$
in any $2\times 2$ matrix ring is nilpotent but not strongly nilpotent. Notice how we had to use a noncommutative ring here—that’s because for commutative rings, a nilpotent element is strongly nilpotent!