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 (for example X could be a topological space, a manifold, or an algebraic variety): to every point x of the space X we associate (or "attach") 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 (e.g. a topological space, manifold, or algebraic variety), which is then called a vector bundle over X.
The simplest example is the case that the family of vector spaces is constant, i.e., there is a fixed vector space V such that V(x) = V for all x in X: in this case there is a copy of V for each x in X and these copies fit together to form the vector bundle X × V over X. Such vector bundles are said to be trivial. A more complicated (and prototypical) class of examples are the tangent bundles of smooth (or differentiable) manifolds: to every point of such a manifold we attach the tangent space to the manifold at that point. Tangent bundles are not, in general, trivial bundles. For example, the tangent bundle of the sphere is non-trivial by the hairy ball theorem. In general, a manifold is said to be parallelizable if, and only if, its tangent bundle is trivial.
Vector bundles are almost always required to be locally trivial, however, which means they are examples of fiber bundles. Also, the vector spaces are usually required to be over the real or complex numbers, in which case the vector bundle is said to be a real or complex vector bundle (respectively). Complex vector bundles can be viewed as real vector bundles with additional structure. In the following, we focus on real vector bundles in the category of topological spaces.
The Cartesian product X × Rk, equipped with the projection X × Rk → X, is called the trivial bundle of rank k over X.
Given a vector bundle E → X of rank k, and a pair of neighborhoods U and V over which the bundle trivializes via
These are called the transition functions (or the coordinate transformations) of the vector bundle.
The set of transition functions forms a Čech cocycle in the sense that
Conversely, given a fiber bundle (E, X, π, Rk) with a GL(k) cocycle acting in the standard way on the fiber Rk, there is associated a vector bundle. This is an example of the fibre bundle construction theorem for vector bundles, and can be taken as an alternative definition of a vector bundle.
A subbundle of a trivial bundle need not be trivial, and indeed every real vector bundle can be viewed as a subbundle of a trivial bundle of sufficiently high rank. For example the Möbius band, a non-trivial line bundle over the circle, can be seen as a subbundle of the trivial rank 2 bundle over the circle.
A morphism from the vector bundle π1: E1 → X1 to the vector bundle π2: E2 → X2 is given by a pair of continuous maps f: E1 → E2 and g: X1 → X2 such that
Note that g is determined by f (because π1 is surjective), and f is then said to cover g.
The class of all vector bundles together with bundle morphisms forms a category. Restricting to vector bundles for which the spaces are manifolds (and the bundle projections are smooth maps) and smooth bundle morphisms we obtain the category of smooth vector bundles. Vector bundle morphisms are a special case of the notion of a bundle map between fiber bundles, and are also often called (vector) bundle homomorphisms.
A bundle homomorphism from E1 to E2 with an inverse which is also a bundle homomorphism (from E2 to E1) is called a (vector) bundle isomorphism, and then E1 and E2 are said to be isomorphic vector bundles. An isomorphism of a (rank k) vector bundle E over X with the trivial bundle (of rank k over X) is called a trivialization of E, and E is then said to be trivial (or trivializable). The definition of a vector bundle shows that any vector bundle is locally trivial.
We can also consider the category of all vector bundles over a fixed base space X. As morphisms in this category we take those morphisms of vector bundles whose map on the base space is the identity map on X. That is, bundle morphisms for which the following diagram commutes:
A vector bundle morphism between vector bundles π1: E1 → X1 and π2: E2 → X2 covering a map g from X1 to X2 can also be viewed as a vector bundle morphism over X1 from E1 to the pullback bundle g*E2.
Given a vector bundle π: E → X and an open subset U of X, we can consider sections of π on U, i.e. continuous functions s: U → E where the composite π ∘ s is such that (π ∘ s)(u) = u for all u in U. Essentially, a section assigns to every point of U a vector from the attached vector space, in a continuous manner. As an example, sections of the tangent bundle of a differential manifold are nothing but vector fields on that manifold.
If s is an element of F(U) and α: U → R is a continuous map, then αs (pointwise scalar multiplication) is in F(U). We see that F(U) is a module over the ring of continuous real-valued functions on U. Furthermore, if OX denotes the structure sheaf of continuous real-valued functions on X, then F becomes a sheaf of OX-modules.
Not every sheaf of OX-modules arises in this fashion from a vector bundle: only the locally free ones do. (The reason: locally we are looking for sections of a projection U × Rk → U; these are precisely the continuous functions U → Rk, and such a function is a k-tuple of continuous functions U → R.)
Even more: the category of real vector bundles on X is equivalent to the category of locally free and finitely generated sheaves of OX-modules.
So we can think of the category of real vector bundles on X as sitting inside the category of sheaves of OX-modules; this latter category is abelian, so this is where we can compute kernels and cokernels of morphisms of vector bundles.
A rank n vector bundle is trivial if and only if it has n linearly independent global sections.
Most operations on vector spaces can be extended to vector bundles by performing the vector space operation fiberwise.
For example, if E is a vector bundle over X, then there is a bundle E* over X, called the dual bundle, whose fiber at x ∈ X is the dual vector space (Ex)*. Formally E* can be defined as the set of pairs (x, φ), where x ∈ X and φ ∈ (Ex)*. The dual bundle is locally trivial because the dual space of the inverse of a local trivialization of E is a local trivialization of E*: the key point here is that the operation of taking the dual vector space is functorial.
There are many functorial operations which can be performed on pairs of vector spaces (over the same field), and these extend straightforwardly to pairs of vector bundles E, F on X (over the given field). A few examples follow.
Each of these operations is a particular example of a general feature of bundles: that many operations that can be performed on the category of vector spaces can also be performed on the category of vector bundles in a functorial manner. This is made precise in the language of smooth functors. An operation of a different nature is the pullback bundle construction. Given a vector bundle E → Y and a continuous map f: X → Y one can "pull back" E to a vector bundle f*E over X. The fiber over a point x ∈ X is essentially just the fiber over f(x) ∈ Y. Hence, Whitney summing E ⊕ F can be defined as the pullback bundle of the diagonal map from X to X × X where the bundle over X × X is E × F.
Remark: Let X be a compact space. Any vector bundle E over X is a direct summand of a trivial bundle; i.e., there exists a bundle E' such that E ⊕ E' is trivial. This fails if X is not compact: for example, the tautological line bundle over the infinite real projective space does not have this property.
Vector bundles are often given more structure. For instance, vector bundles may be equipped with a vector bundle metric. Usually this metric is required to be positive definite, in which case each fibre of E becomes a Euclidean space. A vector bundle with a complex structure corresponds to a complex vector bundle, which may also be obtained by replacing real vector spaces in the definition with complex ones and requiring that all mappings be complex-linear in the fibers. More generally, one can typically understand the additional structure imposed on a vector bundle in terms of the resulting reduction of the structure group of a bundle. Vector bundles over more general topological fields may also be used.
If instead of a finite-dimensional vector space, if the fiber F is taken to be a Banach space then a Banach bundle is obtained. Specifically, one must require that the local trivializations are Banach space isomorphisms (rather than just linear isomorphisms) on each of the fibers and that, furthermore, the transitions
are continuous mappings of Banach manifolds. In the corresponding theory for Cp bundles, all mappings are required to be Cp.
Vector bundles are special fiber bundles, those whose fibers are vector spaces and whose cocycle respects the vector space structure. More general fiber bundles can be constructed in which the fiber may have other structures; for example sphere bundles are fibered by spheres.
A vector bundle (E, p, M) is smooth, if E and M are smooth manifolds, p: E → M is a smooth map, and the local trivializations are diffeomorphisms. Depending on the required degree of smoothness, there are different corresponding notions of Cp bundles, infinitely differentiable C∞-bundles and real analytic Cω-bundles. In this section we will concentrate on C∞-bundles. The most important example of a C∞-vector bundle is the tangent bundle (TM, πTM, M) of a C∞-manifold M.
A smooth vector bundle can be characterized by the fact that it admits transition functions as described above which are smooth functions on overlaps of trivializing charts U and V. That is, a vector bundle E is smooth if it admits a covering by trivializing open sets such that for any two such sets U and V, the transition function
is a smooth function into the matrix group GL(k,R), which is a Lie group.
The C∞-vector bundles (E, p, M) have a very important property not shared by more general C∞-fibre bundles. Namely, the tangent space Tv(Ex) at any v ∈ Ex can be naturally identified with the fibre Ex itself. This identification is obtained through the vertical lift vlv: Ex → Tv(Ex), defined as
The vertical lift can also be seen as a natural C∞-vector bundle isomorphism p*E → VE, where (p*E, p*p, E) is the pull-back bundle of (E, p, M) over E through p: E → M, and VE := Ker(p*) ⊂ TE is the vertical tangent bundle, a natural vector subbundle of the tangent bundle (TE, πTE, E) of the total space E.
The total space E of any smooth vector bundle carries a natural vector field Vv := vlvv, known as the canonical vector field. More formally, V is a smooth section of (TE, πTE, E), and it can also be defined as the infinitesimal generator of the Lie-group action (t, v) ↦ etv given by the fibrewise scalar multiplication. The canonical vector field V characterizes completely the smooth vector bundle structure in the following manner. As a preparation, note that when X is a smooth vector field on a smooth manifold M and x ∈ M such that Xx = 0, the linear mapping
does not depend on the choice of the linear covariant derivative ∇ on M. The canonical vector field V on E satisfies the axioms
Conversely, if E is any smooth manifold and V is a smooth vector field on E satisfying 1–4, then there is a unique vector bundle structure on E whose canonical vector field is V.
For any smooth vector bundle (E, p, M) the total space TE of its tangent bundle (TE, πTE, E) has a natural secondary vector bundle structure (TE, p*, TM), where p* is the push-forward of the canonical projection p: E → M. The vector bundle operations in this secondary vector bundle structure are the push-forwards +*: T(E × E) → TE and λ*: TE → TE of the original addition +: E × E → E and scalar multiplication λ: E → E.
The K-theory group, K(X), of a compact Hausdorff topological space is defined as the abelian group generated by isomorphism classes [E] of complex vector bundles modulo the relation that whenever we have an exact sequence
In algebraic geometry, one considers the K-theory groups consisting of coherent sheaves on a scheme X, as well as the K-theory groups of vector bundles on the scheme with the above equivalence relation. The two constructs are the same provided that the underlying scheme is smooth.