Inserted: 29 apr 2020
Last Updated: 11 mar 2021
Journal: Annales de l'Institut Henri Poincaré - Probabilités et Statistiques
We are concerned with stochastic processes on surfaces in three-dimensional contact sub-Riemannian manifolds. Employing the Riemannian approximations to the sub-Riemannian manifold which make use of the Reeb vector field, we obtain a second order partial differential operator on the surface arising as the limit of Laplace-Beltrami operators. The stochastic process associated with the limiting operator moves along the characteristic foliation induced on the surface by the contact distribution. We show that for this stochastic process elliptic characteristic points are inaccessible, while hyperbolic characteristic points are accessible from the separatrices. We illustrate the results with examples and we identify canonical surfaces in the Heisenberg group, and in SU(2) and SL(2,ℝ) equipped with the standard sub-Riemannian contact structures as model cases for this setting. Our techniques further allow us to derive an expression for an intrinsic Gaussian curvature of a surface in a general three-dimensional contact sub-Riemannian manifold.