In differential geometry and mathematical physics, an Einstein manifold is a Riemannian or pseudo-Riemannian differentiable manifold whose Ricci tensor is proportional to the metric. They are named after Albert Einstein because this condition is equivalent to saying that the metric is a solution of the vacuum Einstein field equations (with cosmological constant), although both the dimension and the signature of the metric can be arbitrary, thus not being restricted to the four-dimensional Lorentzian manifolds usually studied in general relativity. Einstein manifolds in four Euclidean dimensions are studied as gravitational instantons.
In local coordinates the condition that (M, g) be an Einstein manifold is simply
Taking the trace of both sides reveals that the constant of proportionality k for Einstein manifolds is related to the scalar curvature R by
where κ is the Einstein gravitational constant. The stress–energy tensor Tab gives the matter and energy content of the underlying spacetime. In vacuum (a region of spacetime devoid of matter) Tab = 0, and Einstein's equation can be rewritten in the form (assuming that n > 2):
Therefore, vacuum solutions of Einstein's equation are (Lorentzian) Einstein manifolds with k proportional to the cosmological constant.
Four dimensional Riemannian Einstein manifolds are also important in mathematical physics as gravitational instantons in quantum theories of gravity. The term "gravitational instanton" is usually used restricted to Einstein 4-manifolds whose Weyl tensor is self-dual, and it is usually assumed that the metric is asymptotic to the standard metric of Euclidean 4-space (and are therefore complete but non-compact). In differential geometry, self-dual Einstein 4-manifolds are also known as (4-dimensional) hyperkähler manifolds in the Ricci-flat case, and quaternion Kähler manifolds otherwise.
Higher-dimensional Lorentzian Einstein manifolds are used in modern theories of gravity, such as string theory, M-theory and supergravity. Hyperkähler and quaternion Kähler manifolds (which are special kinds of Einstein manifolds) also have applications in physics as target spaces for nonlinear σ-models with supersymmetry.
Compact Einstein manifolds have been much studied in differential geometry, and many examples are known, although constructing them is often challenging. Compact Ricci-flat manifolds are particularly difficult to find: in the monograph on the subject by the pseudonymous author Arthur Besse, readers are offered a meal in a starred restaurant in exchange for a new example.