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In mathematics, a circle bundle is a fiber bundle where the fiber is the circle .

Oriented circle bundles are also known as principal U(1)-bundles. In physics, circle bundles are the natural geometric setting for electromagnetism. A circle bundle is a special case of a sphere bundle.

As 3-manifoldsEdit

Circle bundles over surfaces are an important example of 3-manifolds. A more general class of 3-manifolds is Seifert fiber spaces, which may be viewed as a kind of "singular" circle bundle, or as a circle bundle over a two-dimensional orbifold.

Relationship to electrodynamicsEdit

The Maxwell equations correspond to an electromagnetic field represented by a 2-form F, with   being cohomologous to zero. In particular, there always exists a 1-form A, the electromagnetic four-potential, (equivalently, the affine connection) such that


Given a circle bundle P over M and its projection


one has the homomorphism


where   is the pullback. Each homomorphism corresponds to a Dirac monopole; the integer cohomology groups correspond to the quantization of the electric charge. The Bohm-Aharonov effect can be understood as the holonomy of the connection on the associated line bundle describing the electron wave-function. In essence, the Bohm-Aharonov effect is not a quantum-mechanical effect (contrary to popular belief), as no quantization is involved or required in the construction of the fiber bundles or connections.


  • The Hopf fibration is an example of a non-trivial circle bundle.
  • The unit normal bundle of a surface is another example of a circle bundle.
  • The unit normal bundle of a non-orientable surface is a circle bundle that is not a principal   bundle. Only orientable surfaces have principal unit tangent bundles.
  • Another method for constructing circle bundles is using a complex line bundle   and taking the associated sphere (circle in this case) bundle. Since this bundle has an orientation induced from   we have that it is a principal  -bundle.[1] Moreover, the characteristic classes from Chern-Weil theory of the  -bundle agree with the characteristic classes of  .
  • For example, consider the analytification   a complex plane curve

Since   and the characteristic classes pull back non-trivially, we have that the line bundle associated to the sheaf   has Chern class  .


The isomorphism classes of principal  -bundles over a manifold M are in one-to-one correspondence with the homotopy classes of maps  , where   is called the classifying space for U(1). Note that   is the infinite-dimensional complex projective space, and that it is an example of the Eilenberg–Maclane space   Such bundles are classified by an element of the second integral cohomology group   of M, since


This isomorphism is realized by the Euler class; equivalently, it is the first Chern class of a smooth complex line bundle (essentially because a circle is homotopically equivalent to  , the complex plane with the origin removed; and so a complex line bundle with the zero section removed is homotopically equivalent to a circle bundle.)

A circle bundle is a principal   bundle if and only if the associated map   is null-homotopic, which is true if and only if the bundle is fibrewise orientable. Thus, for the more general case, where the circle bundle over M might not be orientable, the isomorphism classes are in one-to-one correspondence with the homotopy classes of maps  . This follows from the extension of groups,  , where  .

Deligne complexesEdit

The above classification only applies to circle bundles in general; the corresponding classification for smooth circle bundles, or, say, the circle bundles with an affine connection requires a more complex cohomology theory. Results include that the smooth circle bundles are classified by the second Deligne cohomology  ; circle bundles with an affine connection are classified by   while   classifies line bundle gerbes.

See alsoEdit


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