### 3.5 Composite operators

From the basic operators we can construct more complicated ones which, with growing degree of
complexity, will be more and more ambiguous for instance from factor ordering choices. Quite simple
expressions exist for the area and volume operator [177, 20, 21], which are constructed solely from fluxes.
Thus, they are less ambiguous since no factor ordering issues with holonomies arise. This is true because
the area of a surface and volume of a region can be written classically as functionals of the
densitized triad alone, and . At the quantum
level, this implies that, just as fluxes, also area and volume have discrete spectra showing that
spatial quantum geometry is discrete. (For discrete approaches to quantum gravity in general
see [150].) All area eigenvalues are known explicitly, but this is not possible even in principle
for the volume operator. Nevertheless, some closed formulas and numerical techniques exist
[149, 103, 102, 83].
The length of a curve, on the other hand, requires the co-triad which is an inverse of the
densitized triad and is more problematic. Since fluxes have discrete spectra containing zero,
they do not have densely defined inverse operators. As we will describe below, it is possible to
quantize those expressions but requires one to use holonomies. Thus, here we encounter more
ambiguities from factor ordering. Still, one can show that also length operators have discrete spectra
[192].

Inverse densitized triad components also arise when we try to quantize matter Hamiltonians such as

for a scalar field with momentum and potential (not to be confused with volume). The
inverse determinant again cannot be quantized directly by using, e.g., an inverse of the volume operator
which does not exist. This seems, at first, to be a severe problem not unlike the situation in
quantum field theory on a background where matter Hamiltonians are divergent. Yet, it turns
out that quantum geometry allows one to quantize these expressions in a well-defined manner
[193].
To do this, we notice that the Poisson bracket of the volume with connection components,

amounts to an inverse of densitized triad components and does allow a well-defined quantization: we can
express the connection component through holonomies, use the volume operator and turn the Poisson
bracket into a commutator. Since all operators involved have a dense intersection of their domains of
definition, the resulting operator is densely defined and amounts to a quantization of inverse powers of the
densitized triad.
This also shows that connection components or holonomies are required in this process, and thus
ambiguities can arise even if initially one starts with an expression such as , which
only depends on the triad. There are also many different ways to rewrite expressions as above,
which all are equivalent classically but result in different quantizations. In classical regimes this
would not be relevant, but can have sizeable effects at small scales. In fact, this particular
aspect, which as a general mechanism is a direct consequence of the background independent
quantization with its discrete fluxes, implies characteristic modifications of the classical expressions on
small scales. We will discuss this and more detailed examples in the cosmological context in
Section 4.