nLab mapping cone



Limits and colimits


homotopy theory, (∞,1)-category theory, homotopy type theory

flavors: stable, equivariant, rational, p-adic, proper, geometric, cohesive, directed

models: topological, simplicial, localic, …

see also algebraic topology



Paths and cylinders

Homotopy groups

Basic facts




The mapping cone of a morphism f:XYf : X \to Y in some homotopical category (precisely: a category of cofibrant objects) is, if it exists, a particular representative of the homotopy cofiber of ff.

It is also called the homotopy cokernel of ff or the weak quotient of YY by the image of XX in YY under ff.

The dual notion is that of mapping cocone.

(graphics taken from Muro 2010)


The mapping cone construction is a means to present in a category with weak equivalences the following canonical construction in homotopy theory/(∞,1)-category theory.


In an (∞,1)-category 𝒞\mathcal{C} with terminal object and (∞,1)-pushout, the homotopy cofiber of a morphism f:XYf : X \to Y is the homotopy pushout

coker(f)Y X* coker(f) \coloneqq Y \coprod_X {*}

hence the object universal construction sitting universally in a diagram of the form

X * f Y coker(f). \array{ X &\stackrel{}{\to}& {*} \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{f}} &\swArrow_{\simeq}& \downarrow \\ Y &\to& coker(f) } \,.

If the (∞,1)-category 𝒞\mathcal{C} is presented by (is equivalent to the simplicial localization of) a category of cofibrant objects CC (for instance given by the cofibrant objects in a model category) then this homotopy cofiber is presented by the ordinary colimit

X f Y i 1 i X i 0 cyl(X) * cone(f) \array{ && X &\stackrel{f}{\to}& Y \\ && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{i_1}} && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{i}} \\ X &\stackrel{i_0}{\to}& cyl(X) \\ \downarrow && &\searrow & \downarrow \\ {*} &\to& &\to& cone(f) }

in CC using any cylinder object cyl(X)cyl(X) for XX.

This is discussed in detail at factorization lemma and at homotopy pullback.


Intuitively this says that cone(f)cone(f) is the object obtained by

  1. forming the cylinder over XX;

  2. gluing to one end of that the object YY as specified by the map ff.

  3. shrinking the other end of the cylinder to the point.

Intuitively it is clear that this way every cycle in YY that happens to be in the image of XX can be “continuously” translated in the cylinder-direction, keeping it constant in YY, to the other end of the cylinder, where it becomes the point. This means that every homotopy group of YY in the image of ff vanishes in the mapping cone. Hence in the mapping cone the image of XX under ff in YY is removed up to homotopy. This makes it clear how cone(f)cone(f) is a homotopy-version of the cokernel of ff. And therefore the name “mapping cone”.


A morphism η:cyl(X)Y\eta : cyl(X) \to Y out of a cylinder object is a left homotopy η:gh\eta : g \Rightarrow h between its restrictions gη(0)g\coloneqq \eta(0) and hη(1)h \coloneqq \eta(1) to the cylinder boundaries

X i 0 g cyl(X) η Y i 1 h X. \array{ X \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{i_0}} & \searrow^{\mathrlap{g}} \\ cyl(X) &\stackrel{\eta}{\to}& Y \\ \uparrow^{\mathrlap{i_1}} & \nearrow_{\mathrlap{h}} \\ X } \,.

Therefore prop. says that the mapping cone is the the universal object with a morphism ii from YY and a left homotopy from ifi \circ f to the zero morphism. This is of course also precisely what def. is saying.


The colimit in prop. may be computed in two stages by two consecutive pushouts in CC, and in two ways by the following pasting diagram:

X f Y i 1 X i 0 cyl(X) cyl(f) * cone(X) cone(f). \array{ && X &\stackrel{f}{\to}& Y \\ && \downarrow^{i_1} && \downarrow \\ X &\stackrel{i_0}{\to}& cyl(X) &\to & cyl(f) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow && \downarrow \\ {*} &\to& cone(X) &\to& cone(f) } \,.

Here every square is a pushout, (and so by the pasting law is every rectangular pasting composite).

This now is a basic fact in ordinary category theory. The pushouts appearing here go by the following names:


The pushout

X i 0 cyl(X) * cone(X) \array{ X &\stackrel{i_0}{\to}& cyl(X) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ {*} &\to& cone(X) }

defines the cone cone(X)cone(X) over XX (with respect to the chosen cylinder object): the result of taking the cylinder over XX and identifying one XX-shaped end with the point.

The pushout

X f Y cyl(X) cyl(f) \array{ X &\stackrel{f}{\to}& Y \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ cyl(X) &\to& cyl(f) }

defines the mapping cylinder cyl(f)cyl(f) of ff, the result of identifying one end of the cylinder over XX with YY, using ff as the gluing map.

The pushout

cyl(X) cyl(f) cone(X) cone(f) \array{ cyl(X) &\to& cyl(f) \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ cone(X) &\to& cone(f) }

defines the mapping cone cone(f)cone(f) of ff: the result of forming the cylinder over XX and then identifying one end with the point and the other with YY, via ff.

The geometric intuition behind this is best seen in the archetypical example of the classical model structure on topological spaces. See the example For topological spaces below. The example For chain complexes can be understood similarly geometrically by thinking of all chain complexes as singular chains on topological spaces.


We discuss realizations of the general construction in various contexts. Some of these examples are regarded in parts of the literature as the default examples, notably that for topological spaces and that for chain complexes.


The mapping cone of the morphism X*X \to {*} to the terminal object is the suspension object ΣX\Sigma X of an object XX. The dual notion of the loop space object of XX.

For topological spaces

The notion mapping cone derives its name from its geometrical interpretation in the category Top of topological spaces.

For more details see also at topological cofiber sequence.

With respect to the standard model structure on topological spaces every CW-complex is a cofibrant object, and hence mapping cones on maps between CW-complexes have intrinsic meaning in homotopy theory.

Write I[0,1]I \coloneqq [0,1] \subset \mathbb{R} \in Top for the closed interval with its Euclidean metric topology. This is an interval object for the standard model structure. We may therefore take the cylinder object of a topological space XX to be

cyl(X)X×I, cyl(X) \coloneqq X \times I \,,

which is literally the cylinder over XX.

Given a continuous function f:XYf:X\to Y, the topological space cone(f)cone(f) is

cone(f)=(X×I) fY cone(f) = (X \times I) \cup_{f} Y

This is the disjoint union of X×IX \times I with YY followed by an identification under which for each xXx\in X a point (x,1)X×I(x,1) \in X \times I is identified with the point f(x)Yf(x) \in Y and followed by the contraction of X×{0}X\times \{0\} to a point.

Of course the opposite convention is also possible: identify (x,0)(x,0) with f(x)f(x) for all xx and then contract X×{1}X\times\{1\} to a point; the two constructions of cones are canonically homeomorphic; the first is sometimes called the “inverse mapping cone”.

The singular chain complex functor from Top to the category of chain complexes of abelian groups sends the mapping cone to a mapping cone in the sense of chain complexes (up to conventions on the orientation of the interval and vector order in the definition of mapping cone of chain complexes).

For chain complexes

Let Ch =Ch (RMod)Ch_\bullet = Ch_\bullet(R Mod) be the category of chain complexes in RRMod for some ring RR.

(For instance if R=R = \mathbb{Z} the integers, then this is Ch (Ab)Ch_\bullet(Ab), chain complexes of abelian groups. More generally RModR Mod can be replaced by any abelian category in the following, with the evident changes in the presentation here and there.)

We derive an explicit presentation of the mapping cone cone(f)cone(f) of a chain map ff, according to the general definition . The end result is prop. below, reproducing the classical formula for the mapping cone.


Write * Ch (𝒜)*_\bullet \in Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) for the chain complex concentrated on RR in degree 0

* 0=[00R]. *_\bullet 0 = [\cdots \to 0 \to 0 \to R] \,.

This may be understood as the normalized chain complex of chains of simplices on the terminal simplicial set Δ 0\Delta^0, the 0-simplex.


Let I Ch (𝒜)I_\bullet \in Ch_{\bullet}(\mathcal{A}) be given by

I =(00R(id,id)RR). I_\bullet = (\cdots 0 \to 0 \to R \stackrel{(-id,id)}{\to} R \oplus R) \,.

Denote by

i 0:* I i_0 : *_\bullet \to I_\bullet

the chain map which in degree 0 is the canonical inclusion into the second summand of a direct sum and by

i 1:* I i_1 : *_\bullet \to I_\bullet

correspondingly the canonical inclusion into the first summand.


This is the standard interval object in chain complexes.

It is in fact the normalized chain complex of chains on a simplicial set for the canonical simplicial interval, the 1-simplex:

I =C (Δ[1]). I_\bullet = C_\bullet(\Delta[1]) \,.

The differential I=(id,id)\partial^I = (-id, id) here expresses the alternating face map complex boundary operator, which in terms of the three non-degenerate basis elements is given by

(01)=(1)(0). \partial ( 0 \to 1 ) = (1) - (0) \,.

We decompose the proof of this statement is a sequence of substatements.


For X Ch X_\bullet \in Ch_\bullet the tensor product of chain complexes

(IX) Ch (I \otimes X)_\bullet \in Ch_\bullet

is a cylinder object of X X_\bullet for the structure of a category of cofibrant objects on Ch Ch_\bullet whose cofibrations are the monomorphisms and whose weak equivalences are the quasi-isomorphisms (the substructure of the standard injective model structure on chain complexes).


The complex (IX) (I \otimes X)_\bullet has components

(IX) n=X nX nX n1 (I \otimes X)_n = X_n \oplus X_n \oplus X_{n-1}

and the differential is given by

X n+1X n+1 X X X nX n (id,id) X n X X n1, \array{ X_{n+1} \oplus X_{n+1} &\stackrel{\partial^X \oplus \partial^X}{\to}& X_n \oplus X_n \\ \oplus &\nearrow_{(-id,id)}& \oplus \\ X_{n} &\underset{-\partial^X}{\to}& X_{n-1} } \,,

hence in matrix calculus by

IX=( X X (id,id) 0 X):(X n+1X n+1)X n(X nX n)X n1. \partial^{I \otimes X} = \left( \array{ \partial^X \oplus \partial^X & (-id, id) \\ 0 & -\partial^X } \right) \;\;\colon\;\; (X_{n+1} \oplus X_{n+1}) \oplus X_{n} \to (X_{n} \oplus X_{n}) \oplus X_{n-1} \,.

By the formula discussed at tensor product of chain complexes the components arise as the direct sum

(IX) n=(R (0)X n)(R (1)X n)(R (01)X (n1)) (I \otimes X )_n = (R_{(0)} \otimes X_n ) \oplus (R_{(1)} \otimes X_n ) \oplus (R_{(0 \to 1)} \otimes X_{(n-1)} )

and the differential picks up a sign when passed past the degree-1 term R (01)R_{(0 \to 1)}:

IX((01),x) =(( I(01)),x)((01), Xx) =((0)+(1),x)((01), Xx) =((0),x)+((1),x)((01), Xx). \begin{aligned} \partial^{I \otimes X} ( (0 \to 1), x ) &= ( (\partial^I (0 \to 1)), x ) - ( (0\to 1), \partial^X x ) \\ & = ( - (0) + (1), x ) - ( (0 \to 1), \partial^X x ) \\ & = -((0), x) + ((1), x) - ( (0 \to 1), \partial^X x ) \end{aligned} \,.

The two boundary inclusions of X X_\bullet into the cylinder are given in terms of def. by

i 0 X:X * X i 0id X(IX) i^X_0 : X_\bullet \simeq *_\bullet \otimes X_\bullet \stackrel{i_0 \otimes id_X}{\to} (I\otimes X)_\bullet


i 1 X:X * X i 1id X(IX) i^X_1 : X_\bullet \simeq *_\bullet \otimes X_\bullet \stackrel{i_1 \otimes id_X}{\to} (I\otimes X)_\bullet

which in components is the inclusion of the second or first direct summand, respectively

X nX nX nX n1. X_n \hookrightarrow X_n \oplus X_n \oplus X_{n-1} \,.

One part of definition now reads:


For f :X Y f_\bullet : X_\bullet \to Y_\bullet a chain map, the mapping cylinder cyl(f)cyl(f) is the pushout

cyl(f) Y f I X i 0 X . \array{ cyl(f)_\bullet &\leftarrow& Y_\bullet \\ \uparrow && \uparrow^{\mathrlap{f}} \\ I_\bullet \otimes X_\bullet &\stackrel{i_0}{\leftarrow}& X_\bullet } \,.

The components of cyl(f) cyl(f)_\bullet are

cyl(f) n=X nY nX n1 cyl(f)_n = X_n \oplus Y_n \oplus X_{n-1}

and the differential is given by

X n+1Y n+1 X Y X nY n (id,f) X n X X n1, \array{ X_{n+1} \oplus Y_{n+1} &\stackrel{\partial^X \oplus \partial^Y}{\to}& X_n \oplus Y_n \\ \oplus &\nearrow_{(-id,f)}& \oplus \\ X_{n} &\underset{-\partial^X}{\to}& X_{n-1} } \,,

hence in matrix calculus by

cyl(f)=( X Y (id,f n) 0 X):(X n+1Y n+1)X n(X nY n)X n1. \partial^{cyl(f)} = \left( \array{ \partial^X \oplus \partial^Y & (-id, f_n) \\ 0 & -\partial^X } \right) : (X_{n+1} \oplus Y_{n+1}) \oplus X_{n} \to (X_{n} \oplus Y_{n}) \oplus X_{n-1} \,.

The colimits in a category of chain complexes Ch (𝒜)Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) are computed in the underlying presheaf category of towers in 𝒜\mathcal{A}. There they are computed degreewise in 𝒜\mathcal{A} (see at limits in presheaf categories). Here the statement is evident:

the pushout identifies one direct summand X nX_n with Y nY_n along f nf_n and so where previously a id X nid_{X_n} appeared on the diagonl, there is now f nf_n.

The last part of definition now reads:


For f :X Y f_\bullet : X_\bullet \to Y_\bullet a chain map, the mapping cone cone(f)cone(f) is the pushout

cone(f) cyl(f) cone(X) XI i 1 0 X \array{ cone(f) &\leftarrow& cyl(f) \\ \uparrow && \uparrow \\ cone(X) &\leftarrow& X \otimes I \\ \uparrow && \uparrow^{\mathrlap{i_1}} \\ 0 &\leftarrow& X }

In the literature this appears for instance as (Schapira, def. 3.2.2).


The components of the mapping cone cone(f)cone(f) are

cone(f) n=Y nX n1 cone(f)_n = Y_n \oplus X_{n-1}

with differential given by

Y n+1 Y Y n f n X n X X n1, \array{ Y_{n+1} &\stackrel{\partial^Y}{\to}& Y_n \\ \oplus &\nearrow_{f_n}& \oplus \\ X_{n} &\underset{-\partial^X}{\to}& X_{n-1} } \,,

and hence in matrix calculus by

cone(f)=( n+1 Y f n 0 n X):Y n+1X nY nX n1. \partial^{cone(f)} = \left( \array{ \partial^Y_{n+1} & f_n \\ 0 & -\partial^X_n } \right) : Y_{n+1} \oplus X_{n} \to Y_{n} \oplus X_{n-1} \,.

As before the pushout is computed degreewise. This identifies the remaining unshifted copy of XX with 0.


For f:X Y f : X_\bullet \to Y_\bullet a chain map, the canonical inclusion i:Y cone(f) i : Y_\bullet \to cone(f)_\bullet of Y Y_\bullet into the mapping cone of ff is given in components

i n:Y ncone(f) n=Y nX n1 i_n : Y_n \to cone(f)_n = Y_n \oplus X_{n-1}

by the canonical inclusion of a summand into a direct sum.


This follows by starting with remark and then following these inclusions through the formation of the two colimits as discussed above.

The construction above builds the mapping cone explicitly via the standard formula for homotopy pushouts. Often however other presentations are more convenient:


For f :X Y f_\bullet \colon X_\bullet \to Y_\bullet a chain map, consider the double complex D ,D_{\bullet,\bullet} concentrated in degrees D 1,X D_{1,\bullet} \coloneqq X_\bullet and D 0,Y D_{0,\bullet} \coloneqq Y_\bullet with 0,f :D 1,D 0,\partial_{0,\bullet} \coloneqq f_\bullet \colon D_{1,\bullet} \to D_{0,\bullet}.

Then the total complex of D ,D_{\bullet, \bullet} is also a model for the mapping cone of ff:

Cone(f)tot(D ,). Cone(f) \simeq tot(D_{\bullet,\bullet}) \,.

One checks by inspection that tot(D ,)=Cone(f˜)tot(D_{\bullet,\bullet}) = Cone(\tilde f) for f˜:X Y \tilde f\colon X_\bullet \to Y_\bullet for which there is a chain homotopy fff \Rightarrow f' (given only by multiplication by signs).

This appears for instance as (Weibel, Exercise 1.2.8).

For cochain complexes

We spell out the situation in more detail in a category of cochain complexes.

Let 𝒜\mathcal{A} be some concrete additive category and Ch (𝒜)Ch^\bullet(\mathcal{A}) the category of chain complexes in 𝒜\mathcal{A}. For

f:V W f : V^\bullet \to W^{\bullet}

a morphism, the mapping cone is the complex

Cone(f) (Cone(f) k1d Cone(f)Cone(f) k)) ( V k d V V k+1 f k W k1 d W W k ). \begin{aligned} Cone(f) & \coloneqq (\cdots \to Cone(f)^{k-1} \stackrel{d_{Cone(f)}}{\to} Cone(f)^k) \to \cdots) \\ & \coloneqq \left( \array{ \cdots \to & V^k &\stackrel{- d_V}{\to}& V^{k+1} & \to \cdots \\ & \oplus &\searrow^{f^k}& \oplus \\ \cdots \to & W^{k-1} &\underset{d_W}{\to}& W^k & \to \cdots } \right) \end{aligned} \,.

There is a canonical cochain homotopy

Cone(f) 0 i η W f V \array{ Cone(f) &\leftarrow& 0 \\ {}^{\mathllap{i}}\uparrow &\swArrow_{\eta}& \uparrow \\ W &\stackrel{f}{\leftarrow}& V }

where i:WCone(f)i : W \to Cone(f) is the canonical inclusion, componentwise given by

i k:W k(0,Id)V k+1W k i^k : W^k \stackrel{(0,Id)}{\to} V_{k+1} \oplus W^k

and where the cochain homotopy η\eta has components

η k:V k(Id,0)Cone(f) k1=V kW k1 \eta^k : V^k \stackrel{(Id,0)}{\to} Cone(f)^{k-1} = V^k \oplus W^{k-1}

which we denote on vV kv \in V^k by

η:v(f(v))[1]. \eta : v \mapsto (f(v))[1] \,.

The fact that this is a cochain homotopy means that

[d,η]=if0, [d,\eta] = i \circ f - 0 \,,

which we check on any vV kv \in V^k by computing

[d,η](v) =d Cone(f)η(v)+η(d Vv) =d Cone(f)(f(v)[1])+(f(d Vv))[1] =(f(v)(d Wf(v))[1])+(d W(f(v)))[1] =f(v), \begin{aligned} [d, \eta](v) &= d_{Cone(f)} \circ \eta (v) + \eta(d_V v) \\ & = d_{Cone(f)} (f(v)[1]) + (f(d_V v))[1] \\ & = \left( f(v) - (d_{W}f(v))[1] \right) + (d_W (f(v)))[1] \\ & = f(v) \end{aligned} \,,

where we used the above definition of d Cone(f)d_{Cone(f)} and the fact that ff is a chain homomorphism and hence intertwines the differentials.

This cochain homotopy is universal in that for any other cochain homotopy

X 0 j ρ W f V \array{ X &\leftarrow& 0 \\ {}^{\mathllap{j}}\uparrow &\swArrow_{\rho}& \uparrow \\ W &\stackrel{f}{\leftarrow}& V }


jf=[d,ρ] j \circ f = [d,\rho]

we have a morphism

(j,ρ):Cone(f)X (j,\rho) : Cone(f) \to X

given on WW by jj and on VV by ρ\rho

(j,ρ) k:V k+1W k(ρ,j)X k (j,\rho)^k : V^{k+1} \oplus W^k \stackrel{(\rho, j)}{\to} X^k

which is indeed a cochain homomorphism because for all v+wCone(f)v + w \in Cone(f) we have

d X(j,ρ)(v+w) =d X(ρv)+d X(j(w)) =[d,ρ](v)ρd Vv+j(d Ww) =jf(v)ρd Vv+j(d Cone(f)w) =(j,ρ)d Cone(f)(v+w) \begin{aligned} d_X (j,\rho)(v + w) & = d_X (\rho v) + d_X (j(w)) \\ & = [d,\rho](v) - \rho d_V v + j (d_W w) \\ & = j f (v) - \rho d_V v + j (d_{Cone(f)} w) \\ & = (j,\rho) d_{Cone(f)}(v + w) \end{aligned}

and which is unique with the property that whiskering of 2-morphisms gives

X 0 j ρ W f V=X (j,ρ) Cone(f) 0 i η W f V \array{ X &\leftarrow& 0 \\ {}^{\mathllap{j}}\uparrow &\swArrow_{\rho}& \uparrow \\ W &\stackrel{f}{\leftarrow}& V } \;\;\;\;\; = \;\;\;\;\; \array{ X \\ & \nwarrow^{\mathrlap{(j,\rho)}} \\ && Cone(f) &\leftarrow& 0 \\ && {}^{\mathllap{i}}\uparrow &\swArrow_{\eta}& \uparrow \\ && W &\stackrel{f}{\leftarrow}& V }

hence that

j=(j,ρ)i j = (j,\rho) \circ i


ρ=(j,ρ)η. \rho = (j,\rho) \circ \eta \,.

In additive categories with translation

Let 𝒜\mathcal{A} be an additive category with translation T=[1]:𝒜𝒜T=[1] : \mathcal{A} \to \mathcal{A}. Let XX and YY be two differential objects in (𝒜,T)(\mathcal{A},T) and f:XYf : X \to Y any morphism in CC.

The mapping cone Cone(f)Cone(f) of ff is the differential object whose underlying object is the direct sum TXYT X \oplus Y and whose differential d conef:TXXTTXTXd_{cone f} : T X \oplus X \to T T X \oplus T X is given in matrix calculus notation by

d conef:=(d TX 0 T(f) d Y)=(T(d X) 0 T(f) d Y). d_{cone f} := \left( \array{ d_{T X} & 0 \\ T(f) & d_Y } \right) = \left( \array{ - T(d_X) & 0 \\ T(f) & d_Y } \right) \,.

Notice the minus sign here, coming from the definition of a shifted differential object.


Homology exact sequences and fiber sequences

We discuss the relation between mapping cones in categories of chain complexes, as above, and long exact sequences in homology. For an exposition of the following see there the section Relation to homotopy fiber sequences.

Let f:X Y f : X_\bullet \longrightarrow Y_\bullet be a chain map and write cone(f)Ch (𝒜)cone(f) \in Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) for its mapping cone as explicitly given in prop. .


Write X[1] Ch (𝒜)X[1]_\bullet \in Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) for the suspension of a chain complex of XX. Write

p:cone(f)X[1] p : cone(f) \to X[1]_\bullet

for the chain map which in components

p n:cone(f) nX[1] n p_n : cone(f)_n \to X[1]_n

is given, via prop. , by the canonical projection out of a direct sum

p n:Y nX n1X n1. p_n : Y_\n \oplus X_{n-1} \to X_{n-1} \,.

The chain map p:cone(f) X[1] p : cone(f)_\bullet \to X[1]_\bullet represents the homotopy cofiber of the canonical map i:Y cone(f) i : Y_\bullet \to cone(f)_\bullet.


By prop. and def. the sequence

Y icone(f) pX[1] Y_\bullet \stackrel{i}{\to} cone(f)_\bullet \stackrel{p}{\to} X[1]_\bullet

is a short exact sequence of chain complexes (since it is so degreewise, in fact degreewise it is even a split exact sequence). In particular we have a cofiber pushout diagram

Y i cone(f) 0 X[1] . \array{ Y_\bullet &\stackrel{i}{\hookrightarrow}& cone(f)_\bullet \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ 0 &\to& X[1]_\bullet } \,.

Now, in the injective model structure on chain complexes all chain complxes are cofibrant objects and an inclusion such as i:Y cone(f) i : Y_\bullet \hookrightarrow cone(f)_\bullet is a cofibration. By the detailed discussion at homotopy limit this means that the ordinary colimit here is in fact a homotopy colimit, hence exhibits pp as the homotopy cofiber of ii.


For f :X Y f_\bullet : X_\bullet \to Y_\bullet a chain map, there is a homotopy cofiber sequence of the form

X f Y i cone(f) p X[1] f[1] Y i[1] cone(f) p[1] X[2] X_\bullet \stackrel{f_\bullet}{\to} Y_\bullet \stackrel{i_\bullet}{\to} cone(f)_\bullet \stackrel{p_\bullet}{\to} X[1]_\bullet \stackrel{f[1]_\bullet}{\to} Y_\bullet \stackrel{i[1]_\bullet}{\to} cone(f)_\bullet \stackrel{p[1]_\bullet}{\to} X[2]_\bullet \to \cdots

In order to compare this to the discussion of connecting homomorphisms, we now turn attention to the case that f f_\bullet happens to be a monomorphism. Notice that this we can always assume, up to quasi-isomorphism, for instance by prolonging ff by the map into its mapping cylinder

X Y cyl(f). X_\bullet \to Y_\bullet \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} cyl(f) \,.

By the axioms on an abelian category in this case we have a short exact sequence

0X f Y p Z 0 0 \to X_\bullet \stackrel{f_\bullet}{\to} Y_\bullet \stackrel{p_\bullet}{\to} Z_\bullet \to 0

of chain complexes. The following discussion revolves around the fact that now cone(f) cone(f)_\bullet as well as Z Z_\bullet are both models for the homotopy cofiber of ff.



X f Y p Z X_\bullet \stackrel{f_\bullet}{\to} Y_\bullet \stackrel{p_\bullet}{\to} Z_\bullet

be a short exact sequence of chain complexes.

The collection of linear maps

h n:Y nX n1Y nZ n h_n : Y_n \oplus X_{n-1} \to Y_n \stackrel{}{\to} Z_n

constitutes a chain map

h :cone(f) Z . h_\bullet : cone(f)_\bullet \to Z_\bullet \,.

This is a quasi-isomorphism. The inverse of H n(h )H_n(h_\bullet) is given by sending a representing cycle zZ nz \in Z_n to

(z^ n, Yz^ n)Y nX n+1, (\hat z_n, \partial^Y \hat z_n) \in Y_n \oplus X_{n+1} \,,

where z^ n\hat z_n is any choice of lift through p np_n and where Yz^ n\partial^Y \hat z_n is the formula expressing the connecting homomorphism in terms of elements, as discussed at Connecting homomorphism – In terms of elements.

Finally, the morphism i :Y cone(f) i_\bullet : Y_\bullet \to cone(f)_\bullet is eqivalent in the homotopy category (the derived category) to the zigzag

cone(f) h Y Z . \array{ && cone(f)_\bullet \\ && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{h}}_{\mathrlap{\simeq}} \\ Y_\bullet &\to& Z_\bullet } \,.

In the literature this appears for instance as (Schapira, cor. 7.2.2).


To see that h h_\bullet defines a chain map recall the differential cone(f)\partial^{cone(f)} from prop. , which acts by

cone(f)(x n1,z^ n)=( Xx n1, Yz^ n+x n1) \partial^{cone(f)} (x_{n-1}, \hat z_n) = ( -\partial^X x_{n-1} , \partial^Y \hat z_n + x_{n-1} )

and use that x n1x_{n-1} is in the kernel of p np_n by exactness, hence

h n1 cone(f)(x n1,z^ n) =h n1( Xx n1, Yz^ n+x n1) =p n1( Yz^ n+x n1) =p n1( Yz^ n) = Zp nz^ n = Zh n(x n1,z^ n). \begin{aligned} h_{n-1}\partial^{cone(f)}(x_{n-1}, \hat z_n) &= h_{n-1}( -\partial^X x_{n-1}, \partial^Y \hat z_n + x_{n-1} ) \\ & = p_{n-1}( \partial^Y \hat z_n + x_{n-1}) \\ & = p_{n-1}( \partial^Y \hat z_n ) \\ & = \partial^Z p_n \hat z_n \\ & = \partial^Z h_n(x_{n-1}, \hat z_n) \end{aligned} \,.

It is immediate to see that we have a commuting diagram of the form

cone(f) i h Y Z \array{ && cone(f)_\bullet \\ & {}^{\mathllap{i_\bullet}}\nearrow& \downarrow^{\mathrlap{h}}_{\mathrlap{\simeq}} \\ Y_\bullet &\to& Z_\bullet }

since the composite morphism is the inclusion of YY followed by the bottom morphism on YY.

Abstractly, this already implies that cone(f) Z cone(f)_\bullet \to Z_\bullet is a quasi-isomorphism, for this diagram gives a morphism of cocones under the diagram defining cone(f)cone(f) in prop. and by the above both of these cocones are homotopy-colimiting.

But in checking the claimed inverse of the induced map on homology groups, we verify this also explicity:

We first determine those cycles (x n1,y n)cone(f) n(x_{n-1}, y_n) \in cone(f)_n which lift a cycle z nz_n. By lemma a lift of chains is any pair of the form (x n1,z^ n)(x_{n-1}, \hat z_n) where z^ n\hat z_n is a lift of z nz_n through Y nX nY_n \to X_n. So x n1x_{n-1} has to be found such that this pair is a cycle. By prop. the differential acts on it by

cone(f)(x n1,z^ n)=( Xx n1, Yz^ n+x n1) \partial^{cone(f)} (x_{n-1}, \hat z_n) = ( -\partial^X x_{n-1} , \partial^Y \hat z_n + x_{n-1} )

and so the condition is that

x n1 Yz^ nx_{n-1} \coloneqq -\partial^Y \hat z_n (which implies Xx n1= X Yz^ n= Y Yz^ n=0\partial^X x_{n-1} = -\partial^X \partial^Y \hat z_n = -\partial^Y \partial^Y \hat z_n = 0 due to the fact that f nf_n is assumed to be an inclusion, hence that X\partial^X is the restriction of Y\partial^Y to elements in X nX_n).

This condition clearly has a unique solution for every lift z^ n\hat z_n and a lift z^ n\hat z_n always exists since p n:Y nZ np_n : Y_n \to Z_n is surjective, by assumption that we have a short exact sequence of chain complexes. This shows that H n(h )H_n(h_\bullet) is surjective.

To see that it is also injective we need to show that if a cycle ( Yz^ n,z^ n)cone(f) n(-\partial^Y \hat z_n, \hat z_n) \in cone(f)_n maps to a cycle z n=p n(z^ n)z_n = p_n(\hat z_n) that is trivial in H n(Z)H_n(Z) in that there is c n+1c_{n+1} with Zc n+1=z n\partial^Z c_{n+1} = z_n, then also the original cycle was trivial in homology, in that there is (x n,y n+1)(x_n, y_{n+1}) with

cone(f)(x n,y n+1)( Xx n, Yy n+1+x n)=( Yz^ n,z^ n). \partial^{cone(f)}(x_n, y_{n+1}) \coloneqq (-\partial^X x_n, \partial^Y y_{n+1} + x_n) = (-\partial^Y \hat z_n, \hat z_n) \,.

For that let c^ n+1Y n+1\hat c_{n+1} \in Y_{n+1} be a lift of c n+1c_{n+1} through p np_n, which exists again by surjectivity of p n+1p_{n+1}. Observe that

p n(z^ n Yc^ n+1)=z n Z(p nc^ n+1)=z n Z(c n+1)=0 p_{n}( \hat z_n - \partial^Y \hat c_{n+1}) = z_n -\partial^Z ( p_n \hat c_{n+1} ) = z_n - \partial^Z ( c_{n+1} ) = 0

by assumption on z nz_n and c n+1c_{n+1}, and hence that z^ n Yc^ n+1\hat z_n - \partial^Y \hat c_{n+1} is in X nX_n by exactness.

Hence (z n Yc^ n+1,c^ n+1)cone(f) n(z_n - \partial^Y \hat c_{n+1}, \hat c_{n+1}) \in cone(f)_n trivializes the given cocycle:

cone(f)(z^ n Yc^ n+1,c^ n+1) =( X(z^ n Yc^ n+1), Yc^ n+1+(z^ n Yc^ n+1)) =( Y(z^ n Yc^ n+1),z^ n) =( Yz^ n,z^ n). \begin{aligned} \partial^{cone(f)}( \hat z_n - \partial^Y \hat c_{n+1} , \hat c_{n+1}) & = (-\partial^X(\hat z_n - \partial^Y \hat c_{n+1} ), \partial^Y \hat c_{n+1} + (\hat z_n - \partial^Y \hat c_{n+1} ) ) \\ & = (-\partial^Y(\hat z_n - \partial^Y \hat c_{n+1}), \hat z_n ) \\ & = ( -\partial^Y \hat z_n, \hat z_n ) \end{aligned} \,.


X f Y Z X_\bullet \stackrel{f_\bullet}{\to} Y_\bullet \to Z_\bullet

be a short exact sequence of chain complexes.

Then the chain homology functor

H n():Ch (𝒜)𝒜 H_n(-) : Ch_\bullet(\mathcal{A}) \to \mathcal{A}

sends the homotopy cofiber sequence of ff, cor. , to the long exact sequence in homology induced by the given short exact sequence, hence to

H n(X )H n(Y )H n(Z )δH n1(X )H n1(Y )H n1(Z )δH n2(X ), H_n(X_\bullet) \to H_n(Y_\bullet) \to H_n(Z_\bullet) \stackrel{\delta}{\to} H_{n-1}(X_\bullet) \to H_{n-1}(Y_\bullet) \to H_{n-1}(Z_\bullet) \stackrel{\delta}{\to} H_{n-2}(X_\bullet) \to \cdots \,,

where δ n\delta_n is the nnth connecting homomorphism.


By lemma the homotopy cofiber sequence is equivalen to the zigzag

cone(f)[1] h[1] cone(f) X[1] f[1] Y[1] Z[1] h X f Y Z . \array{ && && && && && cone(f)[1]_\bullet &\to& \cdots \\ && && && && && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{h[1]_\bullet}}_{\mathrlap{\simeq}} \\ && && cone(f)_\bullet &\to& X[1]_\bullet &\stackrel{f[1]_\bullet}{\to}& Y[1]_\bullet &\to& Z[1]_\bullet \\ && && \downarrow^{\mathrlap{h_\bullet}}_{\mathrlap{\simeq}} \\ X_\bullet &\stackrel{f_\bullet}{\to}& Y_\bullet &\stackrel{}{\to}& Z_\bullet } \,.

Observe that

H n(X[k] )H nk(X ). H_n( X[k]_\bullet) \simeq H_{n-k}(X_\bullet) \,.

It is therefore sufficient to check that

H n(cone(f) X[1] Z ):H n(Z )H n(cone(f) )H n1(X ) H_n \left( \array{ cone(f)_\bullet &\to& X[1]_\bullet \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{\simeq}} \\ Z_\bullet } \right) \;\; : \;\; H_n(Z_\bullet) \to H_n(cone(f)_\bullet) \to H_{n-1}(X_\bullet)

equals the connecting homomorphism δ n\delta_n induced by the short exact sequence.

By prop. the inverse of the vertical map is given by choosing lifts and forming the corresponding element given by the connecting homomorphism. By prop. the horizontal map is just the projection, and hence the assignment is of the form

[z n][x n1,y n][x n1]. [z_n] \mapsto [x_{n-1}, y_n] \mapsto [x_{n-1}] \,.

So in total the image of the zig-zag under homology sends

[z n] Z[ Yz^ n] X. [z_n]_Z \mapsto -[\partial^Y \hat z_n]_X \,.

By the discussion there, this is indeed the action of the connecting homomorphism.

Distinguished triangles from mapping cones

In summary, the above says that for every chain map f :X Y f_\bullet : X_\bullet \to Y_\bullet we obtain maps

X fY (0 id Y )cone(f) (id X[1] 0)X[1] X_\bullet \stackrel{f}{\to} Y_\bullet \stackrel{ \left( \array{ 0 \\ id_{Y_\bullet} } \right) }{\to} cone(f)_\bullet \stackrel{ \left( \array{ id_{X[1]_\bullet} & 0 } \right) }{\to} X[1]_\bullet

which form a homotopy fiber sequence and such that this sequence continues by forming suspensions, hence for all nn \in \mathbb{Z} we have

X[n] fY[n] (0 id Y[n] )cone(f)[n] (id X[n+11] 0)X[n+1] X[n]_\bullet \stackrel{f}{\to} Y[n]_\bullet \stackrel{ \left( \array{ 0 \\ id_{Y[n]_\bullet} } \right) }{\to} cone(f)[n]_\bullet \stackrel{ \left( \array{ id_{X[n+11]_\bullet} & 0 } \right) }{\to} X[n+1]_\bullet

To amplify this quasi-cyclic behaviour one sometimes depicts the situation as follows:

X f Y [1] cone(f) \array{ X_\bullet &&\stackrel{f}{\to}&& Y_\bullet \\ & {}_{\mathllap{[1]}}\nwarrow && \swarrow \\ && cone(f)_\bullet }

and hence speaks of a “triangle”, or distinguished triangle or mapping cone triangle of ff.

Due to these “triangles” one calls the homotopy category of chain complexes localized at the quasi-isomorphisms, hence the derived category, a triangulated category.

Notice that equivalently we can express the triangles via the mapping cylinder. For every map of chain complexes f:ABf:A\to B, the cylinder Cyl(f)Cyl(f) is quasi-isomorphic to BB, and moreover in the homotopy category of chain complexes, every distinguished triangle is quasi-isomorphic to a distinguished triangle of the form

ACyl(u)Cone(u)A[1] A\to Cyl(u)\to Cone(u)\to A[1]

for some u:ABu:A\to B where all the morphisms in the triangle are appropriatedly induced by uu.

examples of universal constructions of topological spaces:

\, point space\,\, empty space \,
\, product topological space \,\, disjoint union topological space \,
\, topological subspace \,\, quotient topological space \,
\, fiber space \,\, space attachment \,
\, mapping cocylinder, mapping cocone \,\, mapping cylinder, mapping cone, mapping telescope \,
\, cell complex, CW-complex \,


In the context of chain complexes the construction is discussed for instance in

In the context of spectra discussion includes

  • Robert Switzer, around 8. 17 of Algebraic Topology - Homotopy and Homology, Die Grundlehren der Mathematischen Wissenschaften in Einzeldarstellungen, Vol. 212, Springer-Verlag, New York, N. Y., 1975.

Graphics taken from

  • Fernando Muro, Representability of Cohomology Theories, Joint Mathematical Conference CSASC 2010, 22–27 January 2010, Prague, Czech Republic (slides)

Last revised on December 8, 2023 at 16:11:36. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.