Normal bundle

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In differential geometry, a field of mathematics, a normal bundle is a particular kind of vector bundle, complementary to the tangent bundle, and coming from an embedding (or immersion).


Riemannian manifold[edit]

Let (M,g) be a Riemannian manifold, and S \subset M a Riemannian submanifold. Define, for a given p \in S, a vector n \in \mathrm{T}_p M to be normal to S whenever g(n,v)=0 for all v\in \mathrm{T}_p S (so that n is orthogonal to \mathrm{T}_p S). The set \mathrm{N}_p S of all such n is then called the normal space to S at p.

Just as the total space of the tangent bundle to a manifold is constructed from all tangent spaces to the manifold, the total space of the normal bundle \mathrm{N} S to S is defined as

\mathrm{N}S := \coprod_{p \in S} \mathrm{N}_p S.

The conormal bundle is defined as the dual bundle to the normal bundle. It can be realised naturally as a sub-bundle of the cotangent bundle.

General definition[edit]

More abstractly, given an immersion i\colon N \to M (for instance an embedding), one can define a normal bundle of N in M, by at each point of N, taking the quotient space of the tangent space on M by the tangent space on N. For a Riemannian manifold one can identify this quotient with the orthogonal complement, but in general one cannot (such a choice is equivalent to a section of the projection V \to V/W).

Thus the normal bundle is in general a quotient of the tangent bundle of the ambient space restricted to the subspace.

Formally, the normal bundle to N in M is a quotient bundle of the tangent bundle on M: one has the short exact sequence of vector bundles on N:

0 \to TN \to TM\vert_{i(N)} \to T_{M/N} := TM\vert_{i(N)} / TN \to 0

where TM\vert_{i(N)} is the restriction of the tangent bundle on M to N (properly, the pullback i^*TM of the tangent bundle on M to a vector bundle on N via the map i).

The normal bundle itself forms an N-dimensional manifold differentiably embedded in \mathbf{R}^{2N} if the manifold itself is of dimension 2N.

Stable normal bundle[edit]

Abstract manifolds have a canonical tangent bundle, but do not have a normal bundle: only an embedding (or immersion) of a manifold in another yields a normal bundle. However, since every compact manifold can be embedded in \mathbf{R}^N, by the Whitney embedding theorem, every manifold admits a normal bundle, given such an embedding.

There is in general no natural choice of embedding, but for a given M, any two embeddings in \mathbf{R}^N for sufficiently large N are regular homotopic, and hence induce the same normal bundle. The resulting class of normal bundles (it is a class of bundles and not a specific bundle because N could vary) is called the stable normal bundle.

Dual to tangent bundle[edit]

The normal bundle is dual to the tangent bundle in the sense of K-theory: by the above short exact sequence,

[TN] + [T_{M/N}] = [TM]

in the Grothendieck group. In case of an immersion in \mathbf{R}^N, the tangent bundle of the ambient space is trivial (since \mathbf{R}^N is contractible, hence parallelizable), so [TN] + [T_{M/N}] = 0, and thus [T_{M/N}] = -[TN].

This is useful in the computation of characteristic classes, and allows one to prove lower bounds on immersibility and embeddability of manifolds in Euclidean space.

For symplectic manifolds[edit]

Suppose a manifold X is embedded in to a symplectic manifold (M,\omega), such that the pullback of the symplectic form has constant rank on X. Then one can define the symplectic normal bundle to X as the vector bundle over X with fibres

 (T_{i(x)}X)^\omega/(T_{i(x)}X\cap (T_{i(x)}X)^\omega), \quad x\in X,

where i:X\rightarrow M denotes the embedding. Notice that the constant rank condition ensures that these normal spaces fit together to form a bundle. Furthermore, any fibre inherits the structure of a symplectic vector space.

By Darboux's theorem, the constant rank embedding is locally determined by i*(TM). The isomorphism

 i^*(TM)\cong TX/\nu \oplus (TX)^\omega/\nu \oplus(\nu\oplus \nu^*), \quad \nu=TX\cap (TX)^\omega,

of symplectic vector bundles over X implies that the symplectic normal bundle already determines the constant rank embedding locally. This feature is similar to the Riemannian case.

Algebraic geometry[edit]

In algebraic geometry, the normal bundle NXY of a regular embedding i: XY, defined by some sheaf of ideals I is the vector bundle on X corresponding to the dual of the sheaf I/I2. The regularity of the embedding ensures that this sheaf is locally free and agrees with the normal cone CXY, which is defined as Spec \oplus_{n \geq 0} I^n / I^{n+1}.[1]


  1. ^ Fulton, William (1998), Intersection theory, Ergebnisse der Mathematik und ihrer Grenzgebiete. 3. Folge. A Series of Modern Surveys in Mathematics [Results in Mathematics and Related Areas. 3rd Series. A Series of Modern Surveys in Mathematics] 2, Berlin, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-3-540-62046-4, MR 1644323 , section B.7