Lie algebra cohomology




Special and general types

Special notions


Extra structure



(,1)(\infty,1)-Lie theory

∞-Lie theory (higher geometry)


Smooth structure

Higher groupoids

Lie theory

∞-Lie groupoids

∞-Lie algebroids

Formal Lie groupoids




\infty-Lie groupoids

\infty-Lie groups

\infty-Lie algebroids

\infty-Lie algebras



Lie algebra cohomology is the intrinsic notion of cohomology of Lie algebras.

There is a precise sense in which Lie algebras 𝔤\mathfrak{g} are infinitesimal Lie groups. Lie algebra cohomology is the restriction of the definition of Lie group cohomology to Lie algebras.

In ∞-Lie theory one studies the relation between the two via Lie integration.

Lie algebra cohomology generalizes to nonabelian Lie algebra cohomology and to ∞-Lie algebra cohomology.


There are several different but equivalent definitions of the cohomology of a Lie algebra.

As Ext-group or derived functor

The abelian cohomology of a kk-Lie algebra 𝔤\mathfrak{g} with coefficients in the left 𝔤\mathfrak{g}-module MM is defined as H Lie *(𝔤,M)=Ext U𝔤 *(k,M)H^*_{Lie}(\mathfrak{g},M) = Ext_{U\mathfrak{g}}^*(k,M) where kk is the ground field understood as a trivial module over the universal enveloping algebra U𝔤U\mathfrak{g}. In particular it is a derived functor.

Via resolutions

Before this approach was advanced in Cartan-Eilenberg’s Homological algebra, Lie algebra cohomology and homology were defined by Chevalley-Eilenberg with a help of concrete Koszul-type resolution which is in this case a cochain complex

Hom 𝔤(U𝔤 kΛ *𝔤,M)Hom k(Λ *𝔤,M),Hom_{\mathfrak{g}}(U\mathfrak{g}\otimes_k \Lambda^* \mathfrak{g},M)\cong Hom_k(\Lambda^* \mathfrak{g},M),

where the first argument U𝔤 kΛ *𝔤U\mathfrak{g}\otimes_k \Lambda^* \mathfrak{g} is naturally equipped with a differential to start with (see below).


The first argument in the Hom, i.e. U𝔤 kΛ *𝔤U\mathfrak{g}\otimes_k \Lambda^* \mathfrak{g} is sometimes called the Chevalley-Eilenberg chain complex (cf. Weibel); the Chevalley-Eilenberg cochain complex is the whole thing, i.e.

CE(𝔤,M):=Hom 𝔤(U𝔤 kΛ *𝔤,M)Hom k(Λ *𝔤,M).CE(\mathfrak{g},M) := Hom_{\mathfrak{g}}(U\mathfrak{g}\otimes_k \Lambda^* \mathfrak{g},M)\cong Hom_k(\Lambda^* \mathfrak{g},M).

If MM is a trivial module kk then CE(𝔤):=Hom k(Λ *𝔤,k)CE(\mathfrak{g}) := Hom_k(\Lambda^* \mathfrak{g},k) and if 𝔤\mathfrak{g} is finite-dimensional this equals Λ *𝔤 *\Lambda^* \mathfrak{g}^* with an appropriate differential and the exterior multiplication gives it a dg-algebra structure.

Via \infty-Lie algebras

As discussed at Chevalley-Eilenberg algebra, we may identify Lie algebras 𝔤\mathfrak{g} as the duals CE(𝔤)CE(\mathfrak{g}) of dg-algebras whose underlying graded algebra is the Grassmann algebra on the vector space 𝔤 *\mathfrak{g}^*.

Similarly, a dg-algebra CE(𝔥)CE(\mathfrak{h}) whose underlying algebra is free on a graded vector space 𝔥\mathfrak{h} we may understand as exibiting an ∞-Lie algebra-structure on 𝔥\mathfrak{h}.

Then a morphism 𝔤𝔥\mathfrak{g} \to \mathfrak{h} of these \infty-Lie algebras is by definition just a morphism CE(𝔤)CE(𝔥)CE(\mathfrak{g}) \leftarrow CE(\mathfrak{h}) of dg-algebras. Such a morphis may be thought of as a cocycle in nonabelian Lie algebra cohomology H(𝔤,𝔥)H(\mathfrak{g}, \mathfrak{h}).

Specifically, write b n1b^{n-1} \mathbb{R} for the line Lie n-algebra, the \infty-Lie algebra given by the fact that CE(b n1)CE(b^{n-1}\mathbb{R}) has a single generator in degree nn and vanishing differential. Then a morphism

μ:𝔤b n1 \mu : \mathfrak{g} \to b^{n-1} \mathbb{R}

is a cocycle in the abelian Lie algebra cohomology H n(𝔤,)H^n(\mathfrak{g}, \mathbb{R}). Notice that dually, by definition, this is a morphism of dg-algebras

CE(𝔤)CE(b n1):μ. CE(\mathfrak{g}) \leftarrow CE(b^{n-1} \mathbb{R}) : \mu \,.

Since on the right we only have a single closed degree-nn generator, such a morphism is precily a closed degree nn-element

μCE(𝔤). \mu \in CE(\mathfrak{g}) \,.

This way we recover the above definition of Lie algebra cohomology (with coefficient in the trivial module) in terms of the cochain complex cohomology of the CE-algebra.


Whitehead’s lemma

The following lemma asserts that for semisimple Lie algebras 𝔤\mathfrak{g} only the cohomology 𝔤b n1\mathfrak{g} \to b^{n-1} \mathbb{R} with coefficients in the trivial module is nontrivial.


(Whitehead’s lemma)

For 𝔤\mathfrak{g} a finite dimensional semisimple Lie algebra over a field of characteristic 0, and for VV a non-trivial finite-dimensional irreducible representation, we have

H p(𝔤,V)=0forp>0. H^p(\mathfrak{g}, V) = 0 \;\;\; for\;p \gt 0 \,.

Van Est isomorphism

The content of a van Est isomorphism is that the canonical comparison map from Lie group cohomology to Lie algebra cohomology (by differentiation) is an isomorphism whenever the Lie group is sufficiently connected.


Every invariant polynomial W(𝔤)\langle - \rangle \in W(\mathfrak{g}) on a Lie algebra has a transgression to a cocycle on 𝔤\mathfrak{g}. See ∞-Lie algebra cohomology for more.

For instance for 𝔤\mathfrak{g} a semisimple Lie algebra, there is the Killing form ,\langle - ,- \rangle. The corresponding 3-cocycle is

μ=,[,]:CE(𝔤), \mu = \langle -, [-,-] \rangle : CE(\mathfrak{g}) \,,

that is: the function that sends three Lie algebra elements x,y,zx, y, z to the number μ(x,y,z)=x,[y,z]\mu(x,y,z) = \langle x, [y,z]\rangle.

On the super Poincare Lie algebra in dimension (10,1) there is a 4-cocycle

μ 4=ψ¯Γ abΨe ae bCE(𝔰𝔦𝔰𝔬(10,1)) \mu_4 = \bar \psi \wedge \Gamma^{a b} \Psi\wedge e_a \wedge e_b \in CE(\mathfrak{siso}(10,1))


Every Lie algebra degree nn cocycle μ\mu (with values in the trivial model) gives rise to an extension

b n2𝔤 μ𝔤. b^{n-2} \mathbb{R} \to \mathfrak{g}_{\mu} \to \mathfrak{g} \,.

In the language of ∞-Lie algebras this was observed in (BaezCrans Theorem 55).

In the dual dg-algebra language the extension is lust the relative Sullivan algebra

CE(𝔤 μ)CE(𝔤) CE(\mathfrak{g}_\mu) \leftarrow CE(\mathfrak{g})

obtained by gluing on a rational nn-sphere. By this kind of translation between familiar statements in rational homotopy theory dually into the language of ∞-Lie algebras many useful statements in ∞-Lie theory are obtained.



Ordinary Lie algebras

An account of the standard theory of Lie algebra cohomology is for instance

in chapter V in vol III of


with a brief summary in

  • José de Azcárraga, José M. Izquierdo, J. C. Perez Bueno, An introduction to some novel applications of Lie algebra cohomology and physics (arXiv)

chapter 7 of

  • Charles Weibel, An introduction to homological algebra, Cambridge Studies in Adv. Math. 38, CUP 1994

See also

Super Lie algebras

The cohomology of super Lie algebras is analyzed via normed division algebras in

See also division algebra and supersymmetry.

This subsumes some of the results in

  • J. A. de Azcárraga and P. K. Townsend, Superspace geometry and classification of supersymmetric extended objects, Phys. Rev. Lett. 62, 2579–2582 (1989)

The cohomology of the super Poincare Lie algebra in low dimensions 5\leq 5 is analyzed in

  • Friedemann Brandt,

    Supersymmetry algebra cohomology I: Definition and general structure J. Math. Phys.51:122302, 2010, arXiv

    Supersymmetry algebra cohomology II: Primitive elements in 2 and 3 dimensions J. Math. Phys. 51 (2010) 112303 (arXiv)

    Supersymmetry algebra cohomology III: Primitive elements in four and five dimensions (arXiv)

and in higher dimensions more generally in

  • Michael Movshev, Albert Schwarz, Renjun Xu, Homology of Lie algebra of supersymmetries (arXiv) .


The ∞-Lie algebra extensions b n2𝔤 μ𝔤b^{n-2} \to \mathfrak{g}_\mu \to \mathfrak{g} induced by a degree nn-cocycle are considered around theorem 55 in

  • John Baez and Alissa Crans, Higher-Dimensional Algebra VI: Lie 2-Algebras, Theory and Applications of Categories 12 (2004), 492-528. arXiv

Revised on January 10, 2017 16:06:27 by Urs Schreiber (