Lemma 10.120.5. Let $R$ be a domain. Assume every nonzero, nonunit factors into irreducibles. Then $R$ is a UFD if and only if every irreducible element is prime.

Proof. Assume $R$ is a UFD and let $x \in R$ be an irreducible element. Say $ab \in (x)$, i.e., $ab = cx$. Choose factorizations $a = a_1 \ldots a_ n$, $b = b_1 \ldots b_ m$, and $c = c_1 \ldots c_ r$. By uniqueness of the factorization

$a_1 \ldots a_ n b_1 \ldots b_ m = c_1 \ldots c_ r x$

we find that $x$ is an associate of one of the elements $a_1, \ldots , b_ m$. In other words, either $a \in (x)$ or $b \in (x)$ and we conclude that $x$ is prime.

Assume every irreducible element is prime. We have to prove that factorization into irreducibles is unique up to permutation and taking associates. Say $a_1 \ldots a_ m = b_1 \ldots b_ n$ with $a_ i$ and $b_ j$ irreducible. Since $a_1$ is prime, we see that $b_ j \in (a_1)$ for some $j$. After renumbering we may assume $b_1 \in (a_1)$. Then $b_1 = a_1 u$ and since $b_1$ is irreducible we see that $u$ is a unit. Hence $a_1$ and $b_1$ are associates and $a_2 \ldots a_ n = ub_2\ldots b_ m$. By induction on $n + m$ we see that $n = m$ and $a_ i$ associate to $b_{\sigma (i)}$ for $i = 2, \ldots , n$ as desired. $\square$

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