In mathematics, a compact (topological) group is a topological group whose topology is compact (when an element of the group is operated on, the result is also within the group). Compact groups are a natural generalization of finite groups with the discrete topology and have properties that carry over in significant fashion. Compact groups have a well-understood theory, in relation to group actions and representation theory.
The classification theorem of compact Lie groups states that up to finite extensions and finite covers this exhausts the list of examples (which already includes some redundancies). This classification is described in more detail in the next subsection.
Given any compact Lie group G one can take its identity component G0, which is connected. The quotient group G/G0 is the group of components π0(G) which must be finite since G is compact. We therefore have a finite extension
Meanwhile, for connected compact Lie groups, we have the following result:
Thus, the classification of connected compact Lie groups can in principle be reduced to knowledge of the simply connected compact Lie groups together with information about their centers. (For information about the center, see the section below on fundamental group and center.)
Finally, every compact, connected, simply-connected Lie group K is a product of compact, connected, simply-connected simple Lie groups Ki each of which is isomorphic to exactly one of the following:
or one of the five exceptional groups G2, F4, E6, E7, and E8. The restrictions on n are to avoid special isomorphisms among the various families for small values of n. For each of these groups, the center is known explicitly. The classification is through the associated root system (for a fixed maximal torus), which in turn are classified by their Dynkin diagrams.
The classification of compact, simply connected Lie groups is the same as the classification of complex semisimple Lie algebras. Indeed, if K is a simply connected compact Lie group, then the complexification of the Lie algebra of K is semisimple. Conversely, every complex semisimple Lie algebra has a compact real form isomorphic to the Lie algebra of a compact, simply connected Lie group.
The root systems associated to the simple compact groups appearing in the classification of simply connected compact groups are as follows:
Amongst groups that are not Lie groups, and so do not carry the structure of a manifold, examples are the additive group Zp of p-adic integers, and constructions from it. In fact any profinite group is a compact group. This means that Galois groups are compact groups, a basic fact for the theory of algebraic extensions in the case of infinite degree.
Compact groups all carry a Haar measure, which will be invariant by both left and right translation (the modulus function must be a continuous homomorphism to positive reals (R+, ×), and so 1). In other words, these groups are unimodular. Haar measure is easily normalized to be a probability measure, analogous to dθ/2π on the circle.
Such a Haar measure is in many cases easy to compute; for example for orthogonal groups it was known to Adolf Hurwitz, and in the Lie group cases can always be given by an invariant differential form. In the profinite case there are many subgroups of finite index, and Haar measure of a coset will be the reciprocal of the index. Therefore, integrals are often computable quite directly, a fact applied constantly in number theory.
The representation theory of compact groups (not necessarily Lie groups and not necessarily connected) was founded by the Peter–Weyl theorem. Hermann Weyl went on to give the detailed character theory of the compact connected Lie groups, based on maximal torus theory. The resulting Weyl character formula was one of the influential results of twentieth century mathematics. The combination of the Peter–Weyl theorem and the Weyl character formula led Weyl to a complete classification of the representations of a connected compact Lie group; this theory is described in the next section.
A combination of Weyl's work and Cartan's theorem gives a survey of the whole representation theory of compact groups G. That is, by the Peter–Weyl theorem the irreducible unitary representations ρ of G are into a unitary group (of finite dimension) and the image will be a closed subgroup of the unitary group by compactness. Cartan's theorem states that Im(ρ) must itself be a Lie subgroup in the unitary group. If G is not itself a Lie group, there must be a kernel to ρ. Further one can form an inverse system, for the kernel of ρ smaller and smaller, of finite-dimensional unitary representations, which identifies G as an inverse limit of compact Lie groups. Here the fact that in the limit a faithful representation of G is found is another consequence of the Peter–Weyl theorem.
The unknown part of the representation theory of compact groups is thereby, roughly speaking, thrown back onto the complex representations of finite groups. This theory is rather rich in detail, but is qualitatively well understood.
Certain simple examples of the representation theory of compact Lie groups can be worked out by hand, such as the representations of the rotation group SO(3), the special unitary group SU(2), and the special unitary group SU(3). We focus here on the general theory. See also the parallel theory of representations of a semisimple Lie algebra.
Throughout this section, we fix a connected compact Lie group K and a maximal torus T in K.
The irreducible finite-dimensional representations of K are then classified by a theorem of the highest weight, which is closely related to the analogous theorem classifying representations of a semisimple Lie algebra. The result says that:
The study of characters is an important part of the representation theory of compact groups. One crucial result, which is a corollary of the Peter–Weyl theorem, is that the characters form an orthonormal basis for the set of square-integrable class functions in K. A second key result is the Weyl character formula, which gives an explicit formula for the character—or, rather, the restriction of the character to T—in terms of the highest weight of the representation.
In the closely related representation theory of semisimple Lie algebras, the Weyl character formula is an additional result established after the representations have been classified. In Weyl's analysis of the compact group case, however, the Weyl character formula is actually a crucial part of the classification itself. Specifically, in Weyl's analysis of the representations of K, the hardest part of the theorem—showing that every dominant, analytically integral element is actually the highest weight of some representation—is proved in a totally different way from the usual Lie algebra construction using Verma modules. In Weyl's approach, the construction is based on the Peter–Weyl theorem and an analytic proof of the Weyl character formula. Ultimately, the irreducible representations of K are realized inside the space of continuous functions on K.
We now consider the case of the compact group SU(2). The representations are often considered from the Lie algebra point of view, but we here look at them from the group point of view. We take the maximal torus to be the set of matrices of the form
(If we use the formula for the sum of a finite geometric series on the above expression and simplify, we obtain the earlier expression.)
From this last expression and the standard formula for the , we can read off that the weights of the representation are
The influence of the compact group theory on non-compact groups was formulated by Weyl in his unitarian trick. Inside a general semisimple Lie group there is a maximal compact subgroup, and the representation theory of such groups, developed largely by Harish-Chandra, uses intensively the restriction of a representation to such a subgroup, and also the model of Weyl's character theory.