Differentiability estimates

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Given a fully nonlinear integro-differential equation $Iu=0$, uniformly elliptic with respect to certain class of operators, sometimes an interior $C^{1,\alpha}$ estimate holds for some $\alpha>0$ (typically very small). Assume $I0=0$. The $C^{1,\alpha}$ estimate is a result like the following.

Theorem. Let $u \in L^\infty(R^n) \cap C(\overline B_1)$ solve the equation \[Iu = 0 \ \ \text{in } B_1.\] Then $u \in C^{1,\alpha}(B_{1/2})$ and the following estimate holds \[ ||u||_{C^{1,\alpha}(B_{1/2})} \leq C ||u||_{L^\infty}. \]

A theorem as above is known to hold under some assumptions on the nonlocal operator $I$. A list of valid assumptions is provided below.

Note that the result is stated for general fully nonlinear integro-differential equations, but the most important cases to apply it are the Isaacs equation and Bellman equation.


Idea of the proof

The idea to prove a $C^{1,\alpha}$ estimate is to apply Holder estimates to the derivatives of the solutions $u$. The directional derivatives $u_e$ satisfy the two inequalities \[ M^+_{\mathcal L} u_e \geq 0 \text{ and } M^-_{\mathcal L} u_e \geq 0 \] where $M^\pm_{\mathcal L}$ are the extremal operators with respect to the corresponding class of operators $\mathcal L$. If the Holder estimates apply to this class of operators, one would expect that $u_e \in C^\alpha$ for any vector $e$, and therefore $u \in C^{1,\alpha}$.

There is a technical problem with the idea above. The Holder estimates indicate that $u_e$ is $C^\alpha$ in some $B_{1/2}$ provided that $u_e$ is already known to be bounded in $L^\infty(\R^n)$. In order to obtain the estimate starting from $u \in L^\infty(\R^n)$, one applies the Holder estimates successively to gain regularity at every step and then prove iteratively that $u \in C^\alpha \Rightarrow u \in C^{2\alpha} \Rightarrow u \in C^{3\alpha} \Rightarrow \dots \Rightarrow u \in C^{1,\alpha}$. The last step in the iteration illustrates the difficulty. Imagine that we have already proved that $u$ is Lipschitz in $B_{3/4}$, so we know that $u_e \in L^\infty(B_{3/4})$ for any vector $e$. This is not enough to apply the Holder estimates to $u_e$ since we would need $u_e \in L^\infty(\R^n)$.

The only known solution to this difficulty is to add an extra smoothness assumption to the family of kernels that allows to integrate by parts the tails in the integral representation of each linear operator $L u_e$ in the class $\mathcal L$ and write its tail as an integral in terms of $u$. It is an interesting open problem whether a better solution exist.

Classes of kernels for which the estimate holds

Translation invariant, uniformly elliptic of order $s$, and some smoothness in the tails of the kernels

The first situation in which the interior $C^{1,\alpha}$ estimate was proved for a nonlocal equation was if $I$ is translation invariant and uniformly elliptic with respect to the class of kernels satisfying the following hypothesis for some $\rho_0$ small enough[1]. \begin{align*} \frac{(2-s)\lambda}{|y|^{n+s}} \leq K(y) &\leq \frac{(2-s)\Lambda}{|y|^{n+s}} && \text{(standard unif. ellipticity of order $s$)}\\ \int_{\R^n \setminus B_{\rho_0}} \frac{|K(y)-K(y-h)|}{|h|} \mathrm d y &\leq C \qquad \text{every time $|h|<\frac {\rho_0} 2$} && \text{(kernel tails in $W^{1,1}$)} \end{align*}

Variant if the kernel tails are $C^1$

A small variation of the previous result is to assume the class of kernels satisfying the slightly stronger assumptions. A scale invariant class for which interior $C^{1,\alpha}$ regularity holds is [2] \begin{align*} \frac{(2-s)\lambda}{|y|^{n+s}} \leq K(y) &\leq \frac{(2-s)\Lambda}{|y|^{n+s}} && \text{(standard unif. ellipticity of order $s$)}\\ \nabla K(y) &\leq \frac{\Lambda}{|y|^{n+s+1}} && \text{appropriate decay of the kernel in $C^1$.} \end{align*}

Then, any solution of $Iu=0$ in $B_r$ satisfies the estimate \[ [u]_{C^{1,\alpha}(B_{r/2})} \leq C \left(\frac 1 {r^{1+\alpha}} ||u||_{L^\infty(B_r)} + \frac 1 {r^{1+\alpha-s}} \int_{\R^n \setminus B_r} \frac{|u(y)|}{|y|^{n+s}} \mathrm d y \right). \] Other $C^{1,\alpha}$ estimates are obtained from this one using perturbation methods [2].

A class of non-differentiable kernels

A scale invariant class for which interior $C^{1,\alpha}$ regularity holds and the kernels can be very irregular is given by the following hypothesis[2] \begin{align*} K(y) &= (2-s) \frac{a_1(y) + a_2(y)}{|y|^{n+s}} \\ \lambda &\leq a_1(y) \leq \Lambda \\ |a_2| &\leq \eta \\ |\nabla a_1(y)| &\leq \frac{C_1}{|y|} \qquad \text{in } \R^n \setminus \{0\} \end{align*} for $s>1$ and $\eta$ small enough (depending on $\lambda$, $\Lambda$, $C_1$ and dimension)

Isaacs equation with variable coefficients but close to constant

If $s>1$, the following Isaacs equation also has interior $C^{1,\alpha}$ estimates [2]. The family of integro-differential operators has kernels which are the sum of a fixed term $a_0$ (the same for all kernels in the class) and a small term which can depend on $x$. \[ \inf_\alpha \ \sup_\beta \int_{\R^n} (u(x+y)+u(x-y)-2u(x)) \frac{(2-s)(a_0(y) + a_{\alpha \beta}(x,y))}{|y|^{n+s}} \mathrm d y =0\] such that we have for $\eta$ small enough and any $\alpha$, $\beta$, \begin{align*} |a_{\alpha \beta}(x,y)| &< \eta \qquad \text{ for every } \alpha, \beta \\ \lambda &\leq a_0(y) \leq \Lambda \\ |\nabla a_0(y)| &\leq C |y|^{-1} \end{align*} (note that this $C^{1,\alpha}$ estimate is nontrivial in the linear case as well)

Isaacs equation with continuous coefficients

If $s>1$, the following Isaacs equation also has interior $C^{1,\alpha}$ estimates [2]. \[ \inf_\alpha \sup_\beta \int_{\R^n} \delta u(x,y) \frac{(2-s)a_{\alpha \beta}(x,y)}{|y|^{n+s}} \mathrm d y = 0\] such that for every $\alpha$, $\beta$ we have \begin{align*} \lambda \leq a_{\alpha \beta}(x,y) &\leq \Lambda \\ \nabla_y a_{\alpha \beta}(x,y) &\leq C_1/((2-s)|y|)\\ |a_{\alpha \beta}(x_1,y) - a_{\alpha \beta}(x_2,y)| &\leq c(|x_1-x_2|) && \text{for some uniform modulus of continuity $c$}. \end{align*}


  1. Caffarelli, Luis; Silvestre, Luis (2009), "Regularity theory for fully nonlinear integro-differential equations", Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics 62 (5): 597–638, doi:10.1002/cpa.20274, ISSN 0010-3640, http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/cpa.20274 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Caffarelli, Luis; Silvestre, Luis (2009), "Regularity results for nonlocal equations by approximation", Archive for Rational Mechanics and Analysis (Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag): 1–30, ISSN 0003-9527 
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