Principal bundle

Last updated

In mathematics, a principal bundle [1] [2] [3] [4] is a mathematical object that formalizes some of the essential features of the Cartesian product of a space with a group . In the same way as with the Cartesian product, a principal bundle is equipped with


  1. An action of on , analogous to for a product space.
  2. A projection onto . For a product space, this is just the projection onto the first factor, .

Unlike a product space, principal bundles lack a preferred choice of identity cross-section; they have no preferred analog of . Likewise, there is not generally a projection onto generalizing the projection onto the second factor, that exists for the Cartesian product. They may also have a complicated topology that prevents them from being realized as a product space even if a number of arbitrary choices are made to try to define such a structure by defining it on smaller pieces of the space.

A common example of a principal bundle is the frame bundle of a vector bundle , which consists of all ordered bases of the vector space attached to each point. The group in this case, is the general linear group, which acts on the right in the usual way: by changes of basis. Since there is no natural way to choose an ordered basis of a vector space, a frame bundle lacks a canonical choice of identity cross-section.

Principal bundles have important applications in topology and differential geometry and mathematical gauge theory. They have also found application in physics where they form part of the foundational framework of physical gauge theories.

Formal definition

A principal -bundle, where denotes any topological group, is a fiber bundle together with a continuous right action such that preserves the fibers of (i.e. if then for all ) and acts freely and transitively (i.e. regularly) on them in such a way that for each and , the map sending to is a homeomorphism. In particular each fiber of the bundle is homeomorphic to the group itself. Frequently, one requires the base space to be Hausdorff and possibly paracompact.

Since the group action preserves the fibers of and acts transitively, it follows that the orbits of the -action are precisely these fibers and the orbit space is homeomorphic to the base space . Because the action is free, the fibers have the structure of G-torsors. A -torsor is a space that is homeomorphic to but lacks a group structure since there is no preferred choice of an identity element.

An equivalent definition of a principal -bundle is as a -bundle with fiber where the structure group acts on the fiber by left multiplication. Since right multiplication by on the fiber commutes with the action of the structure group, there exists an invariant notion of right multiplication by on . The fibers of then become right -torsors for this action.

The definitions above are for arbitrary topological spaces. One can also define principal -bundles in the category of smooth manifolds. Here is required to be a smooth map between smooth manifolds, is required to be a Lie group, and the corresponding action on should be smooth.


Non-trivial Z/2Z principal bundle over the circle. There is no obvious way to identify which point corresponds to +1 or -1 in each fibre. This bundle is non-trivial as there is no globally defined section of the projection p. Z2 principal bundle over circle.png
Non-trivial Z/2Z principal bundle over the circle. There is no obvious way to identify which point corresponds to +1 or -1 in each fibre. This bundle is non-trivial as there is no globally defined section of the projection π.
acts on the fibres of via the monodromy action. In particular, the universal cover of is a principal bundle over with structure group (since the universal cover is simply connected and thus is trivial).
Here denotes the unit sphere in (equipped with the Euclidean metric). For all of these examples the cases give the so-called Hopf bundles.

Basic properties

Trivializations and cross sections

One of the most important questions regarding any fiber bundle is whether or not it is trivial, i.e. isomorphic to a product bundle. For principal bundles there is a convenient characterization of triviality:

Proposition. A principal bundle is trivial if and only if it admits a global cross section.

The same is not true for other fiber bundles. For instance, Vector bundles always have a zero section whether they are trivial or not and sphere bundles may admit many global sections without being trivial.

The same fact applies to local trivializations of principal bundles. Let π : PX be a principal G-bundle. An open set U in X admits a local trivialization if and only if there exists a local section on U. Given a local trivialization

one can define an associated local section

where e is the identity in G. Conversely, given a section s one defines a trivialization Φ by

The simple transitivity of the G action on the fibers of P guarantees that this map is a bijection, it is also a homeomorphism. The local trivializations defined by local sections are G-equivariant in the following sense. If we write

in the form

then the map


Equivariant trivializations therefore preserve the G-torsor structure of the fibers. In terms of the associated local section s the map φ is given by

The local version of the cross section theorem then states that the equivariant local trivializations of a principal bundle are in one-to-one correspondence with local sections.

Given an equivariant local trivialization ({Ui}, {Φi}) of P, we have local sections si on each Ui. On overlaps these must be related by the action of the structure group G. In fact, the relationship is provided by the transition functions

By gluing the local trivializations together using these transition functions, one may reconstruct the original principal bundle. This is an example of the fiber bundle construction theorem. For any xUiUj we have

Characterization of smooth principal bundles

If is a smooth principal -bundle then acts freely and properly on so that the orbit space is diffeomorphic to the base space . It turns out that these properties completely characterize smooth principal bundles. That is, if is a smooth manifold, a Lie group and a smooth, free, and proper right action then

Use of the notion

Reduction of the structure group

Given a subgroup H of G one may consider the bundle whose fibers are homeomorphic to the coset space . If the new bundle admits a global section, then one says that the section is a reduction of the structure group from to . The reason for this name is that the (fiberwise) inverse image of the values of this section form a subbundle of that is a principal -bundle. If is the identity, then a section of itself is a reduction of the structure group to the identity. Reductions of the structure group do not in general exist.

Many topological questions about the structure of a manifold or the structure of bundles over it that are associated to a principal -bundle may be rephrased as questions about the admissibility of the reduction of the structure group (from to ). For example:

The frame bundle
{\displaystyle {\mathcal {F}}(E)}
of the Mobius strip
{\displaystyle E}
is a non-trivial principal
{\displaystyle \mathbb {Z} /2\mathbb {Z} }
-bundle over the circle. Mobius frame bundle.png
The frame bundle of the Möbius strip is a non-trivial principal -bundle over the circle.

Also note: an -dimensional manifold admits vector fields that are linearly independent at each point if and only if its frame bundle admits a global section. In this case, the manifold is called parallelizable.

Associated vector bundles and frames

If is a principal -bundle and is a linear representation of , then one can construct a vector bundle with fibre , as the quotient of the product × by the diagonal action of . This is a special case of the associated bundle construction, and is called an associated vector bundle to . If the representation of on is faithful, so that is a subgroup of the general linear group GL(), then is a -bundle and provides a reduction of structure group of the frame bundle of from to . This is the sense in which principal bundles provide an abstract formulation of the theory of frame bundles.

Classification of principal bundles

Any topological group G admits a classifying spaceBG: the quotient by the action of G of some weakly contractible space EG, i.e. a topological space with vanishing homotopy groups. The classifying space has the property that any G principal bundle over a paracompact manifold B is isomorphic to a pullback of the principal bundle EGBG. [5] In fact, more is true, as the set of isomorphism classes of principal G bundles over the base B identifies with the set of homotopy classes of maps BBG.

See also

Related Research Articles

Tangent bundle Tangent spaces of a manifold

In differential geometry, the tangent bundle of a differentiable manifold is a manifold which assembles all the tangent vectors in . As a set, it is given by the disjoint union of the tangent spaces of . That is,

Vector bundle Mathematical parametrization of vector spaces by another space

In mathematics, a vector bundle is a topological construction that makes precise the idea of a family of vector spaces parameterized by another space X : to every point x of the space X we associate a vector space V(x) in such a way that these vector spaces fit together to form another space of the same kind as X, which is then called a vector bundle over X.

Fiber bundle Continuous surjection satisfying a local triviality condition

In mathematics, and particularly topology, a fiber bundle is a space that is locally a product space, but globally may have a different topological structure. Specifically, the similarity between a space and a product space is defined using a continuous surjective map, , that in small regions of behaves just like a projection from corresponding regions of to . The map , called the projection or submersion of the bundle, is regarded as part of the structure of the bundle. The space is known as the total space of the fiber bundle, as the base space, and the fiber.

In mathematics, a Lie algebroid is a vector bundle together with a Lie bracket on its space of sections and a vector bundle morphism , satisfying a Leibniz rule. A Lie algebroid can thus be thought of as a "many-object generalisation" of a Lie algebra.

Frame bundle

In mathematics, a frame bundle is a principal fiber bundle F(E) associated to any vector bundle E. The fiber of F(E) over a point x is the set of all ordered bases, or frames, for Ex. The general linear group acts naturally on F(E ) via a change of basis, giving the frame bundle the structure of a principal GL(k, R)-bundle.

Section (fiber bundle)

In the mathematical field of topology, a section of a fiber bundle is a continuous right inverse of the projection function . In other words, if is a fiber bundle over a base space, :

Foliation In mathematics, a type of equivalence relation on an n-manifold

In mathematics, a foliation is an equivalence relation on an n-manifold, the equivalence classes being connected, injectively immersed submanifolds, all of the same dimension p, modeled on the decomposition of the real coordinate space Rn into the cosets x + Rp of the standardly embedded subspace Rp. The equivalence classes are called the leaves of the foliation. If the manifold and/or the submanifolds are required to have a piecewise-linear, differentiable, or analytic structure then one defines piecewise-linear, differentiable, or analytic foliations, respectively. In the most important case of differentiable foliation of class Cr it is usually understood that r ≥ 1. The number p is called the dimension of the foliation and q = np is called its codimension.

In mathematics, the theory of fiber bundles with a structure group allows an operation of creating an associated bundle, in which the typical fiber of a bundle changes from to , which are both topological spaces with a group action of . For a fiber bundle F with structure group G, the transition functions of the fiber in an overlap of two coordinate systems Uα and Uβ are given as a G-valued function gαβ on UαUβ. One may then construct a fiber bundle F′ as a new fiber bundle having the same transition functions, but possibly a different fiber.

In differential geometry, a G-structure on an n-manifold M, for a given structure group G, is a principal G-subbundle of the tangent frame bundle FM of M.

In mathematics, a pullback bundle or induced bundle is the fiber bundle that is induced by a map of its base-space. Given a fiber bundle π : E → B and a continuous map f : B′ → B one can define a "pullback" of E by f as a bundle f*E over B. The fiber of f*E over a point b in B is just the fiber of E over f(b′). Thus f*E is the disjoint union of all these fibers equipped with a suitable topology.

In differential geometry, a spin structure on an orientable Riemannian manifold (M, g) allows one to define associated spinor bundles, giving rise to the notion of a spinor in differential geometry.

In differential geometry, in the category of differentiable manifolds, a fibered manifold is a surjective submersion

In mathematics, a vector-valued differential form on a manifold M is a differential form on M with values in a vector space V. More generally, it is a differential form with values in some vector bundle E over M. Ordinary differential forms can be viewed as R-valued differential forms.

In mathematics, a holomorphic vector bundle is a complex vector bundle over a complex manifold X such that the total space E is a complex manifold and the projection map π : EX is holomorphic. Fundamental examples are the holomorphic tangent bundle of a complex manifold, and its dual, the holomorphic cotangent bundle. A holomorphic line bundle is a rank one holomorphic vector bundle.

In differential geometry, an Ehresmann connection is a version of the notion of a connection, which makes sense on any smooth fiber bundle. In particular, it does not rely on the possible vector bundle structure of the underlying fiber bundle, but nevertheless, linear connections may be viewed as a special case. Another important special case of Ehresmann connections are principal connections on principal bundles, which are required to be equivariant in the principal Lie group action.

In differential geometry, the notion of a metric tensor can be extended to an arbitrary vector bundle, and to some principal fiber bundles. This metric is often called a bundle metric, or fibre metric.

In mathematics, and especially gauge theory, Seiberg–Witten invariants are invariants of compact smooth oriented 4-manifolds introduced by Edward Witten (1994), using the Seiberg–Witten theory studied by Nathan Seiberg and Witten during their investigations of Seiberg–Witten gauge theory.

In mathematics, an affine bundle is a fiber bundle whose typical fiber, fibers, trivialization morphisms and transition functions are affine.

In algebraic geometry and differential geometry, the Nonabelian Hodge correspondence or Corlette–Simpson correspondence is a correspondence between Higgs bundles and representations of the fundamental group of a smooth, projective complex algebraic variety, or a compact Kähler manifold.

In mathematics, and especially differential geometry and mathematical physics, gauge theory is the general study of connections on vector bundles, principal bundles, and fibre bundles. Gauge theory in mathematics should not be confused with the closely related concept of a gauge theory in physics, which is a field theory which admits gauge symmetry. In mathematics theory means a mathematical theory, encapsulating the general study of a collection of concepts or phenomena, whereas in the physical sense a gauge theory is a physical model of some natural phenomenon.


  1. Steenrod, Norman (1951). The Topology of Fibre Bundles . Princeton: Princeton University Press. ISBN   0-691-00548-6. page 35
  2. Husemoller, Dale (1994). Fibre Bundles (Third ed.). New York: Springer. ISBN   978-0-387-94087-8. page 42
  3. Sharpe, R. W. (1997). Differential Geometry: Cartan's Generalization of Klein's Erlangen Program. New York: Springer. ISBN   0-387-94732-9. page 37
  4. Lawson, H. Blaine; Michelsohn, Marie-Louise (1989). Spin Geometry. Princeton University Press. ISBN   978-0-691-08542-5. page 370
  5. Stasheff, James D. (1971), "H-spaces and classifying spaces: foundations and recent developments", Algebraic topology (Proc. Sympos. Pure Math., Vol. XXII, Univ. Wisconsin, Madison, Wis., 1970), Providence, R.I.: American Mathematical Society, pp. 247–272, Theorem 2