diffeological space



Differential geometry

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from point-set topology to differentiable manifolds

geometry of physics: coordinate systems, smooth spaces, manifolds, smooth homotopy types, supergeometry



smooth space


The magic algebraic facts




tangent cohesion

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id id fermionic bosonic bosonic Rh rheonomic reduced infinitesimal infinitesimal & étale cohesive ʃ discrete discrete continuous * \array{ && id &\dashv& id \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{fermionic}{}& \rightrightarrows &\dashv& \rightsquigarrow & \stackrel{bosonic}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{bosonic}{} & \rightsquigarrow &\dashv& \mathrm{R}\!\!\mathrm{h} & \stackrel{rheonomic}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{reduced}{} & \Re &\dashv& \Im & \stackrel{infinitesimal}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{infinitesimal}{}& \Im &\dashv& \& & \stackrel{\text{étale}}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{cohesive}{}& ʃ &\dashv& \flat & \stackrel{discrete}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{discrete}{}& \flat &\dashv& \sharp & \stackrel{continuous}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ && \emptyset &\dashv& \ast }


Lie theory, ∞-Lie theory

differential equations, variational calculus

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Cartan geometry (super, higher)

Cohesive toposes

cohesive topos

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cohesive homotopy type theory



Presentation over a site

Structures in a cohesive (,1)(\infty,1)-topos

structures in a cohesive (∞,1)-topos

Structures with infinitesimal cohesion

infinitesimal cohesion?




A diffeological space is a type of generalized smooth space. As with the other variants, it subsumes the notion of smooth manifold but also naturally captures other spaces that one would like to think of as smooth spaces but aren’t manifolds; for example, the space of all smooth maps between two smooth manifolds can be made into a diffeological space. (These mapping spaces are rarely manifolds themselves, see manifolds of mapping spaces.)

In a little more detail, a diffeology, 𝒟\mathcal{D} on a set XX is a presheaf on the category of open subsets of Euclidean spaces with smooth maps as morphisms. To each open set U nU \subseteq \mathbb{R}^n, it assigns a subset of Set(U,X)\Set(U,X). The functions in Set(U,X)\Set(U,X) are to be regarded as the “smooth functions” from UU to XX. A diffeological space is then a set together with a diffeology on it.

Diffeological spaces were originally introduced in (Souriau 79). They have subsequently been developed in the textbook (Iglesias-Zemmour 13)



Let 𝒪𝓅\mathcal{Op} denote the site whose objects are the open subsets of the Euclidean spaces n\mathbb{R}^n and whose morphisms are smooth maps between these.

A diffeological space is a pair (X,𝒟)(X,\mathcal{D}) where

  • XX is a set

  • and 𝒟Sh(𝒪𝓅)\mathcal{D} \in Sh(\mathcal{Op}) is a diffeology on XX:

    • a subsheaf of the sheaf UHom Set(U,X)U \mapsto Hom_{Set}(U,X) with 𝒟(*)=X\mathcal{D}(*) = X

    • equivalently: a concrete sheaf on the site 𝒪𝓅\mathcal{Op} such that 𝒟(*)=X\mathcal{D}(*) = X - a concrete smooth space (see there for more details).

A morphism of diffeological spaces is a morphism of the corresponding sheaves: we take DiffeologicalSpSh(CartSp)DiffeologicalSp \hookrightarrow Sh(CartSp) to be the full subcategory on the diffeological spaces in the sheaf topos.

For (X,𝒟)(X,\mathcal{D}) a diffeological space, and for any U𝒪𝓅U \in \mathcal{Op}, the set 𝒟(U)\mathcal{D}(U) is also called the set of plots in XX on UU. This is to be thought of as the set of ways of mapping UU smoothly into the would-be space XX. This assignment defined what it means for a map UXU \to X of sets to be smooth.

For some comments on the reasoning behind this kind of definition of generalized spaces see motivation for sheaves, cohomology and higher stacks.

A sheaf on the site 𝒪𝓅\mathcal{Op} of open subsets of Euclidean spaces is completely specified by its restriction to CartSp, the full subcategory of Cartesian space: The fully faithful functor CartSp𝒪𝓅CartSp \hookrightarrow \mathcal{Op} is a dense subsite-inclusion. Therefore in the sequel we shall often restrict our attention to CartSp.

One may define a smooth sets to be any sheaf of CartSp. A diffeological space is equivalently a concrete sheaf on the concrete site CartSp. (For details see this Prop. at geometry of physics – smooth sets.)

The full subcategory

DiffeologicalSpaceSh(CartSp) DiffeologicalSpace \hookrightarrow Sh(CartSp)

on all concrete sheaves is not a topos, but is a quasitopos.

This is Prop. below.

The concreteness condition on the sheaf is a reiteration of the fact that a diffeological space is a subsheaf of the sheaf UX |U|U \mapsto X^{|U|}. In this way, one does not have to explicitly mention the underlying set XX as it is determined by the sheaf on the one-point open subset of 0\mathbb{R}^0.


  • Every smooth manifold XX, i.e. every object of Diff, becomes a diffeological space by defining the plots on UCartSpU \in CartSp to be the ordinary smooth functions from UU to XX, i.e. the morphisms in Diff:

    X:UHom Diff(U,X). X : U \mapsto Hom_{Diff}(U,X) \,.
  • For XX and YY two diffeological spaces, their product as sets X×YX \times Y becomes a diffeological space whose plots are pairs consisting of a plot into XX and one into YY

    X×Y:UHom DiffSp(U,X)×Hom DiffSp(U,Y). X \times Y : U \mapsto Hom_{DiffSp}(U,X) \times Hom_{DiffSp}(U,Y) \,.
  • Given any two diffeological spaces XX and YY, the set of morphisms Hom DiffSp(X,Y)Hom_{DiffSp}(X,Y) becomes a smooth space by taking the plots on some UU to be the smooth morphisms X×UYX \times U \to Y, i.e. the smooth UU-parameterized families of smooth maps from XX to YY:

    [X,Y]:UHom DiffSp(X×U,Y). [X,Y] : U \mapsto Hom_{DiffSp}(X \times U, Y) \,.

    In this formula we regard UCartSpDiffU \in CartSp \hookrightarrow Diff as a diffeological space according to the above example. In fact, we apply secretly here the Yoneda embedding and use the general formula for the cartesian closed monoidal structure on presheaves.


Embedding of smooth manifolds into diffeological spaces


The obvious functor from the category Diff of smooth manifolds to the category of diffeological spaces is a full and faithful functor

DiffDiffeologicalSpace. Diff \to DiffeologicalSpace \,.

This is a direct consequence of the fact that CartSpsmooth_{smooth} is a dense sub-site of Diff and the Yoneda lemma.

It may nevertheless be useful to spell out a pedestrian proof.

To see that the functor is faithful, notice that if f,g:XYf,g : X \to Y are two smooth functions that differ at some point, then they must differ in some open neighbourhood of that point. This open ball is a plot, hence the corresponding diffeological spaces differ on that plot.

To see that the functor is full, we need to show that a map of sets f:XYf : X \to Y that sends plots to plots is necessarily a smooth function, hence that all its derivatives exist. This can be tested already on all smooth curves γ:(0,1)X\gamma : (0,1) \to X in XX. By Boman's theorem, a function that takes all smooth curves to smooth curves is necessarily a smooth function. But curves are in particular plots, so a function that takes all plots of XX to plots of YY must be smooth.


The proof shows that we could restrict attention to the full sub-site CartSp dim1CartSpCartSp_{dim \leq 1} \subset CartSp on the objects 0\mathbb{R}^0 and 1\mathbb{R}^1 and still have a full and faithful embedding

DiffSh(CartSp dim1). Diff \hookrightarrow Sh(CartSp_{dim \leq 1}) \,.

This fact plays a role in the definition of Frölicher spaces, which are generalized smooth spaces defined by plots by curves into and out of them.

While the site CartSp dim1CartSp_{dim \leq 1} is more convenient for some purposes, it is not so useful for other purposes, mostly when diffeological spaces are regarded from the point of view of the full sheaf topos: the sheaf topos Sh(CartSp dim1)Sh(CartSp_{dim \leq 1}) lacks some non-concrete sheaves of interest, such as the sheaves of differential forms of degree 2\geq 2.

Embedding of smooth manifolds with boundary into diffeological spaces


(manifolds with boundaries and corners form full subcategory of diffeological spaces)

The evident functor

SmthMfdWBdrCrnAAAADiffeologicalSpaces SmthMfdWBdrCrn \overset{\phantom{AAAA}}{\hookrightarrow} DiffeologicalSpaces

from the category of smooth manifolds with boundaries and corners to that of diffeological spaces is fully faithful, hence is a full subcategory-embedding.

(Igresias-Zemmour 13, 4.16, Gürer & Iglesias-Zemmour 19)

Embedding of Banach manifolds into diffeological spaces

Also Banach manifolds embed fully faithfully into the category of diffeological spaces. In (Hain) this is discussed in terms of Chen smooth spaces.

Embedding of Fréchet manifolds into diffeological spaces

We discuss a natural embedding of Fréchet manifolds into the category of diffeological spaces.


Define a functor

ι:FrechetManifoldsDiffeologicalSpaces \iota \colon FrechetManifolds \to DiffeologicalSpaces

in the evident way by taking for XX a Fréchet manifold for any UU \in CartSp the set of UU-plots of ι(X)\iota(X) to be the set of smooth functions UXU \to X.


The functor ι:FrechetManifoldsDiffeologicalSpaces\iota \colon FrechetManifolds \hookrightarrow DiffeologicalSpaces is a full and faithful functor.

This appears as (Losik 94, theorem 3.1.1), as variant of the analogous statement for Banach manifolds in (Hain). The fact that maps between Fréchet spaces are smooth if and only if they send smooth curves to smooth curves was proved earlier in (Frölicher 81, théorème 1)

The statement is also implied by (Kriegl-Michor 97, cor. 3.14) which states that functions between locally convex vector spaces are diffeologically smooth precisely if they send smooth curves to smooth curves. This is not true if one uses Michal-Bastiani smoothness (Glöckner 06), in which case one merely has a faithful functor lctvsDiffeologicalSpaceslctvs \to DiffeologicalSpaces. Notice that the choice of topology in (Kriegl-Michor 97) is such that this equivalence of notions reduces to the above just for Fréchet manifolds.


Let X,YSmoothManifoldX, Y \in SmoothManifold with XX a compact manifold.

Then under this embedding, the diffeological mapping space structure C (X,Y) diffC^\infty(X,Y)_{diff} on the mapping space coincides with the Fréchet manifold structure C (X,Y) FrC^\infty(X,Y)_{Fr}:

ι(C (X,Y) Fr)C (X,Y) diff. \iota(C^\infty(X,Y)_{Fr}) \simeq C^\infty(X,Y)_{diff} \,.

This appears as (Waldorf 09, lemma A.1.7).


Embedding of diffeological spaces into smooth sets

We discuss how diffeological spaces are equivalently the concrete objects in the cohesive topos of smooth sets (see there).


(diffeological spaces are the concrete smooth sets)

The full subcategory on the concrete objects in the topos SmoothSetSh(Cart)SmoothSet \coloneqq Sh(Cart) of smooth sets is equivalent to the category of diffeological spaces


The concrete sheaves for the local topos Sh(CartSp)Sh(CartSp) are by definition those objects XX for which the (ΓCoDisc)(\Gamma \dashv CoDisc)-unit

XCoDiscΓX X \to CoDisc \Gamma X

is a monomorphism. Monomorphisms of sheaves are tested objectwise, so that means equivalently that for every UCartSpU \in CartSp we have that

X(U)Hom Sh(U,X)Hom Sh(U,CodiscΓX)Hom Set(ΓU,ΓX) X(U) \simeq Hom_{Sh}(U,X) \to Hom_{Sh}(U, Codisc \Gamma X) \simeq Hom_{Set}(\Gamma U, \Gamma X)

is a monomorphism. This is precisely the condition on a sheaf to be a diffeological space.

For a fully detailed proof see this Prop. at geometry of physics – smooth sets.


The category of diffeological spaces is a quasitopos.


This follows from the discussion at Locality.

This has some immediate general abstract consequences


The category of diffeological spaces is

Embedding of diffeological spaces into higher differential geometry

In the last section we saw the embedding of diffeological spaces as precisely the concrete objects is the sheaf topos Sh(CartSp)Sh(SmthMfd)Sh(CartSp) \simeq Sh(SmthMfd) of smooth sets. This is a general context for differential geometry. From there one can pass further to higher differential geometry: the topos of smooth sets in turn embeds

Sh(CartSp)SmoothGrpdSh (CartSp) Sh(CartSp) \hookrightarrow Smooth \infty Grpd \coloneqq Sh_\infty(CartSp)

into the (∞,1)-topos Smooth∞Grpd of “higher smooth sets” –smooth ∞-groupoids – as precisely the 0-truncated objects.

Distribution theory

Since a space of smooth functions on a smooth manifold is canonically a diffeological space, it is natural to consider the smooth linear functionals on such mapping spaces. These turn out to be equivalent to the continuous linear functionals, hence to distributional densities. See at distributions are the smooth linear functionals for details.



The basic idea of understanding a smooth space as a concrete sheaf on a site of smooth test spaces originates in work of Chen. In

  • Kuo Tsai Chen, Iterated integrals of differential forms and loop space homology, Ann. Math. 97 (1973), 217–246.

he considered (apart from iterated integrals) effectively presheaves on a site of convex subsets of Cartesian spaces. In

  • Kuo Tsai Chen, Iterated integrals, fundamental groups and covering spaces, Trans. Amer. Math. Soc. 206 (1975), 83–98.

roughly the sheaf condition was added (without using any of this sheaf-theoretic terminology). The definition of Chen smooth spaces stabilized in

  • Kuo Tsai Chen, Iterated path integrals , Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 83, (1977), 831–879.

and served as the basis of a celebrated theorem on the de Rham cohomology of loop spaces.

The variant of this idea with the site of convex subsets replaced by that of open subsets (and hence equivalently by the site CartSp smooth{}_{smooth}) appeared in

The diffeological space-structure is at least implicit in

  • Jean-Marie Souriau, Groupes différentiels, in Differential Geometrical Methods in Mathematical Physics (Proc. Conf., Aix-en-Provence/Salamanca, 1979), Lecture Notes in Math. 836, Springer, Berlin, (1980), pp. 91–128. (MathScinet)

motivated from the desire to realize the infinite dimensional groups that appear in geometric quantization, such that (Hamiltonian) diffeomorphism group and their group extensions by quantomorphism groups as diffeological groups.

A detailed discussion of the relations of these and other variants of the definition is in

  • Andrew Stacey, Comparative Smootheology, Theory and Applications of Categories, Vol. 25, 2011, No. 4, pp 64-117. (tac)

The article

amplifies the point that diffeological spaces are concrete sheaves.

A textbook about differential geometry formulated in terms of diffeological spaces is

The term “diffeological space” originates here. The thesis

contains some useful material that hasn’t yet made it into the book.

Exposition and lecture notes are in

Discussion in the context of applications to continuum mechanics is in

Full subcategories

The full subcategory-inclusion of Banach manifolds into the category of diffeological spaces is due to

  • Richard Hain, A characterization of smooth functions defined on a Banach space, Proc. Amer. Math. Soc. 77 (1979), 63-67 (web, pdf)

The (non-full) embedding of locally convex vector spaces and Michal-Bastiani smooth maps into diffeological spaces is discussed around corollary 3.14 in

That there are diffeologically-smooth maps between locally convex vector spaces that are not continuous, and a fortiori not smooth in the sense of Michal-Bastiani is given, for instance, in

  • Helge Glöckner, Discontinuous non-linear mappings on locally convex direct limits, Publ. Math. Debrecen 68 (2006) 1-13, arXiv:math/0503387.

The full subcategory-inclusion of Fréchet manifolds into diffeological spaces is discussed in

  • M. V. Losik, Fréchet manifolds as diffeological spaces, Soviet. Math. 5 (1992)

and reviewed in section 3 of

  • M. V. Losik, Categorical Differential Geometry Cah. Topol. Géom. Différ. Catég., 35(4):274–290, 1994.

The proof can in fact be deduced from théorème 1 of

  • Alfred Frölicher, Applications lisses entre espaces et variétés de Fréchet, C. R. Acad. Sci. Paris Sér. I Math. 293 (1981), no. 2, 125–127. BnF

The preservation of mapping spaces under this embedding is due to

The largest topology on the set which underlies a diffeological space with respect to which all plots are continuous functions (the “D-topology?”) is studied in

Some homotopy theory modeled on diffeological spaces instead of on topological spaces is discussed in

The full subcategory-inclusion of manifolds with boundaries and corners is discussed in

For orbifolds

On orbifolds regarded as naive local quotient diffeological spaces:

Last revised on September 11, 2019 at 10:00:53. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.