-principal bundles over a space (see circle bundle) are geometrical realizations of 1-classes in Deligne cohomology which consist of 1-form connections) and 2-form curvatures. The topology of a bundle is classified by its Chern class, which is an element of , the second integral cohomology of .
Gerbes, or more precisely 1-gerbes, are abstract descriptions of Deligne 2-classes, which each define an element of , the third integral cohomology of M.
In 1994 Murray introduced bundle gerbes, which are geometric realizations of 1-gerbes. For many purposes these are more suitable for calculations than Giraud's realization, because their construction is entirely within the framework of classical geometry. In fact, as their name suggests, they are fiber bundles. This notion was extended to higher gerbes the following year.
Relationship with twisted K-theory
In Twisted K-theory and the K-theory of Bundle Gerbes  the authors defined modules of bundle gerbes and used this to define a K-theory for bundle gerbes. They then showed that this K-theory is isomorphic to Rosenberg's twisted K-theory, and provides an analysis-free construction.
In addition they defined a notion of twisted Chern character which is a characteristic class for an element of twisted K-theory. The twisted Chern character is a differential form that represents a class in the twisted cohomology with respect to the nilpotent operator
Relationship with field theory
Bundle gerbes have also appeared in the context of conformal field theories. Gawedzki and Reis have interpreted the Wess-Zumino term in the Wess-Zumino-Witten model (WZW) of string propagation on a group manifold as the connection of a bundle gerbe. Urs Schreiber, Christoph Schweigert and Konrad Waldorf have used this construction to extend WZW models to unoriented surfaces and, more generally, the global Kalb-Ramond coupling to unoriented strings.
More details can be found at the n-Category Café:
- Bundle gerbes, by Michael Murray.
- Introduction to bundle gerbes, by Michael Murray.
- Nonabelian Bundle Gerbes, their Differential Geometry and Gauge Theory, by Paolo Aschieri, Luigi Cantini and Branislav Jurco.
- Bundle gerbes on arxiv.org