Communications in Analysis and Geometry

Volume 26 (2018)

Number 2

The eta invariant on two-step nilmanifolds

Pages: 271 – 346



Ruth Gornet (Department of Mathematics, University of Texas, Arlington, Tx., U.S.A.)

Ken Richardson (Department of Mathematics, University of Texas, Arlington, Tx., U.S.A.)


The eta invariant appears regularly in index theorems but is known to be directly computable from the spectrum only in certain examples of locally symmetric spaces of compact type. In this work, we derive some general formulas useful for calculating the eta invariant on closed manifolds. Specifically, we study the eta invariant on nilmanifolds by decomposing the spin Dirac operator using Kirillov theory. In particular, for general Heisenberg three-manifolds, the spectrum of the Dirac operator and the eta invariant are computed in terms of the metric, lattice, and spin structure data. There are continuous families of geometrically, spectrally different Heisenberg three-manifolds whose Dirac operators have constant eta invariant. In the appendix, some needed results of L. Richardson and C. C. Moore are extended from spaces of functions to spaces of spinors.


eta invariant, nilmanifold, spectrum, Dirac operator

2010 Mathematics Subject Classification

Primary 22E25, 58J28. Secondary 35P20, 53C27.

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Received 18 February 2015