Topological rings are fundamentally related to topological fields and arise naturally while studying them, since for example completion of a topological field may be a topological ring which is not a field.
The group of units R× of a topological ring R is a topological group when endowed with the topology coming from the embedding of R× into the product R × R as (x,x−1). However, if the unit group is endowed with the subspace topology as a subspace of R, it may not be a topological group, because inversion on R× need not be continuous with respect to the subspace topology. An example of this situation is the adele ring of a global field; its unit group, called the idele group, is not a topological group in the subspace topology. If inversion on R× is continuous in the subspace topology of R then these two topologies on R× are the same.
If one does not require a ring to have a unit, then one has to add the requirement of continuity of the additive inverse, or equivalently, to define the topological ring as a ring that is a topological group (for +) in which multiplication is continuous, too.
Topological rings occur in mathematical analysis, for example as rings of continuous real-valued functions on some topological space (where the topology is given by pointwise convergence), or as rings of continuous linear operators on some normed vector space; all Banach algebras are topological rings. The rational, real, complex and p-adic numbers are also topological rings (even topological fields, see below) with their standard topologies. In the plane, split-complex numbers and dual numbers form alternative topological rings. See hypercomplex numbers for other low-dimensional examples.
In algebra, the following construction is common: one starts with a commutative ring R containing an ideal I, and then considers the I-adic topology on R: a subset U of R is open if and only if for every x in U there exists a natural number n such that x + In ⊆ U. This turns R into a topological ring. The I-adic topology is Hausdorff if and only if the intersection of all powers of I is the zero ideal (0).
The p-adic topology on the integers is an example of an I-adic topology (with I = (p)).
Some of the most important examples are topological fields. A topological field is a topological ring that is also a field, and such that inversion of non zero elements is a continuous function. The most common examples are the complex numbers and all its subfields, and the valued fields, which include the p-adic fields.