Moore complex


Homological algebra

homological algebra


nonabelian homological algebra


Basic definitions

Stable homotopy theory notions



diagram chasing

Homology theories




The Moore complex of a simplicial group – also known in its normalized version as the complex of normalized chains – is a chain complex whose differential is built from the face maps of the simplicial group.

The operation of forming the Moore complex of chains of a simplicial group is one part of the Dold-Kan correspondence that relates simplicial (abelian) groups and chain complexes.

Recall that a simplicial group GG, being in particular a Kan complex, may be thought of, in the sense of the homotopy hypothesis, as a combinatorial space equipped with a group structure. The Moore complex of GG is a chain complex

  • whose nn-cells are the ”nn-disks with basepoint on their boundary” in this space, with the basepoint sitting on the identity element of the space;

  • the boundary map on which acts literally like a boundary map should: it sends an nn-disk to its boundary, read as an (n1)(n-1)-disk whose entire boundary is concentrated at the identity point.

This is entirely analogous to how a crossed complex is obtained from a strict ω-groupoid. In fact it is a special case of that, as discussed at Dold-Kan correspondence in the section on the nonabelian version.


On general simplicial groups


Given a simplicial group GG, the \mathbb{N}-graded chain complex complex ((NG) ,)((N G)_\bullet,\partial ) of (possibly nonabelian) groups is

  • in degree nn the joint kernel

    (NG) n= i=1 nkerd i n (N G)_n=\bigcap_{i=1}^{n}ker\,d_i^n

    of all face maps except the 0-face

  • with differential given by the remaining 0-face

    n:=d 0 n (NG) n:(NG) n(NG) n1 \partial_n := d_0^n|_{(N G)_n} : (N G)_n \rightarrow (N G)_{n-1}

Equivalently one can take the joint kernel of all but the nn-face map and take that remaining face map, d n nd_n^n, to be the differential.

It is important to note, and simple to prove, that NGN G is a normal complex of groups, so that it is easy to take the homology of the complex, even though the groups involved may be non-abelian.


We may think of the elements of the complex NGN G in degree kk as being kk-dimensional disks in GG:

  • an element in degree 1 element gNG 1g \in N G_1 is a 1-disk

    1gg, 1 \stackrel{g}{\to} \partial g \,,
  • an element hNG 2h \in N G_2 is a 2-disk

    1 1 h h 1 1 1, \array{ && 1 \\ & {}^1\nearrow &\Downarrow^h& \searrow^{\partial h} \\ 1 &&\stackrel{1}{\to}&& 1 } \,,
  • a degree 2 element in the kernel of the boundary map is such a 2-disk that is closed to a 2-sphere

    1 1 h h=1 1 1 1, \array{ && 1 \\ & {}^1\nearrow &\Downarrow^h& \searrow^{\partial h = 1} \\ 1 &&\stackrel{1}{\to}&& 1 } \,,



For every simplicial group GG the complex (NG) (N G)_\bullet is a normal complex of groups.

On abelian simplicial groups

Let here AA be a simplicial abelian group. Then (NA) Ch +(N A)_\bullet \in Ch_\bullet^+ is an ordinary connective chain complex in the abelian category Ab.

There are two other chain complexes naturally associated with AA:


The alternating face map complex CAC A of AA is

  • in degree nn given by the group A nA_n itself

    (CA) n:=A n (C A)_n := A_n
  • with the differential given by the alternating sum of face maps (using the abelian group structure on AA)

    n:= i=0 n(1) id i:(CA) n(CA) n1. \partial_n := \sum_{i = 0}^n (-1)^i d_i : (C A)_n \to (C A)_{n-1} \,.

The complex modulo degeneracies, (CA)/D(A)(C A)/D(A) is the complex

  • which in degree nn is given by the quotient group obtained by dividing out the group

    DA n:= iσ i(A n1) D A_n := \langle \cup_i \sigma_i(A_{n-1}) \rangle

    generated by the degenerate elements in A nA_n

    ((CA)/D(A)) n:=A n/D(A n) ((C A)/D(A))_n := A_n / D(A_n)
  • with differential being the induced action of the alternating sum of faces on the quotient.


This is indeed well defined in that the alternating face boundary map satisfies =0\partial \circ \partial = 0 in C (A)C_\bullet(A) and restricts to a boundary map on the degenerate subcomplex :A n s(A n1)A n1 s(A n2)\partial : A_n|_{s(A_{n-1})} \to A_{n-1}|_{s(A_{n-2})}.


For the first statement one checks

n n+1 = i,j(1) i+jd id j = ij(1) i+jd id j+ i<j(1) i+jd id j = ij(1) i+jd id j+ i<j(1) i+jd j1d i = ij(1) i+jd id j ik(1) i+kd kd i =0 \begin{aligned} \partial_n \partial_{n+1} & = \sum_{i, j} (-1)^{i+j} d_i \circ d_{j} \\ &= \sum_{i \geq j} (-1)^{i+j} d_i \circ d_j + \sum_{i \lt j} (-1)^{i+j} d_i \circ d_j \\ &= \sum_{i \geq j} (-1)^{i+j} d_i \circ d_j + \sum_{i \lt j} (-1)^{i+j} d_{j-1} \circ d_i \\ &= \sum_{i \geq j} (-1)^{i+j} d_i \circ d_j - \sum_{i \leq k} (-1)^{i+k} d_{k} \circ d_i \\ &= 0 \end{aligned}

using the simplicial identity d id j=d j1d id_i \circ d_j = d_{j-1} \circ d_i for i<ji \lt j.

Similarly, using the mixed simplicial identities we find that for s j(a)A ns_j(a) \in A_n a degenerate element, its boundary is

i(1) id is j(a) = i<j(1) is j1d i(a)+ i=j,j+1(1) ia+ i>j+1(1) is jd i1(a) = i<j(1) is j1d i(a)+ i>j+1(1) is jd i1(a) \begin{aligned} \sum_i (-1)^i d_i s_j(a) &= \sum_{i \lt j} (-1)^i s_{j-1} d_i(a) + \sum_{i = j, j+1} (-1)^i a + \sum_{i \gt j+1} (-1)^i s_j d_{i-1}(a) \\ &= \sum_{i \lt j} (-1)^i s_{j-1} d_i(a) + \sum_{i \gt j+1} (-1)^i s_j d_{i-1}(a) \end{aligned}

which is again a combination of elements in the image of the degeneracy maps.



Let AA be a simplicial abelian group.


There is a splitting

C (A)N (A)D (A) C_\bullet(A) \simeq N_\bullet(A) \oplus D_\bullet(A)

where the first summand is naturally isomorphic to the Moore complex as defined above.



The evident composite of natural morphisms

NAiAp(CA)/D(A) N A \stackrel{i}{\hookrightarrow} A \stackrel{p}{\to} (C A)/D(A)

(inclusion followed by projection to the quotient) is a natural isomorphism of chain complexes.

This appears as theorem 2.1 in (GoerssJardine).

Theorem (Eilenberg-MacLane)

The inclusion

NACA N A \hookrightarrow C A

is a natural quasi-isomorphism and in fact a natural chain homotopy equivalence, i.e. the complex D (X)D_\bullet(X) is null-homotopic.


Following the proof of theorem 2.1 in (GoerssJardine) we look for each nn \in \mathbb{N} and each j<nj \lt n at the groups

N n(A) j:= i=0 jker(d i)A n N_n(A)_j := \cap_{i=0}^j ker (d_i) \subset A_n

and similarly at

D n(A) j={s i} ij(A n1)A n, D_n(A)_j = \{s_{i}\}_{i \leq j}(A_{n-1}) \subset A_n \,,

the subgroup generated by the first jj degeneracies.

For j=n1j= n-1 these coincide with N n(A)N_n(A) and with D n(A)D_n(A), respectively. We show by induction on jj that the composite

N n(A) jA nA n/D n(A) j N_n(A)_j \hookrightarrow A_n \stackrel{}{\to} A_n/D_n(A)_j

is an isomorphism of all j<nj \lt n. For j=n1j = n-1 this is then the desired result.


Equivalence of categories


The functor N:sAbCh +(A)N : sAb \to Ch_\bullet^+(A) is an equivalence of categories.

This is the statement of the Dold-Kan correspondence. See there for details.

Homology and homotopy groups

Notice that the simplicial set underlying any simplicial group GG (as described there) is a Kan complex. Write

π n(G)n \pi_n(G) \;\;\; n \in \mathbb{N}

for the nn-th simplicial homotopy group of GG. Notice that due to the group structure of GG in this case also π 0(G)\pi_0(G) is indeed canonically a group, not just a set.


For AA a simplicial abelian group there are natural isomorphisms

π n(A,0)H n(NA)H n(A) \pi_n(A,0) \simeq H_n(N A) \simeq H_n(A)

between the simplicial homotopy groups and the chain homology groups of the unnormalized and of the normalized chain complexes.


The first isomorphism follows with the Eckmann-Hilton argument. The second directly from the Eilenberg-MacLane theorem above.


Both sAbsAb as well as Ch +Ch_\bullet^+ are naturally categories with weak equivalences given by those morphisms that induce isomorphisms on all simplicial homotopy group and on all chain homology groups, respectively. So the above statement says that the Moore complex functor NN respects these weak equivalences.

In fact, it induces an equivalence of categories also on the corresponding homotopy categories. And even better, it induces a Quillen equivalence with respect to the standard model category structures that refine the structures of categories of weak equivalences. All this is discussed at Dold-Kan correspondence.

Hypercrossed complex structure


The Moore complex of a simplicial group is naturally a hypercrossed complex.

This has been established in (Carrasco-Cegarra). In fact, the analysis of the Moore complex and what is necessary to rebuild the simplicial group from its Moore complex is the origin of the abstract motion of hypercrossed complex, so our stated proposition is almost a tautology!

Typically one has pairings NG p×NG qNG p+qN G_p \times N G_q \to N G_{p+q}. These use the Conduché decomposition theorem, see the discussion at hypercrossed complex.

These Moore complexes are easily understood in low dimensions:

  • Suppose that GG is a simplicial group with Moore complex NGN G, which satisfies NG k=1N G_k = 1 for k>1k\gt 1, then (G 1,G 0,d 1,d 0)(G_1,G_0,d_1,d_0) has the structure of a 2-group. The interchange law is satisfied since the corresponding equation in G 1G_1 is always the image of an element in NG 2N G_2, and here that must be trivial. If one thinks of the 2-group as being specified by a crossed module (C,P,δ,a)(C,P,\delta, a), then in terms of the original simplicial group, GG, NG 0=G 0=PN G_0 = G_0 = P, NG 1CN G_1 \cong C, =δ \partial = \delta and the action of PP on CC translates to an action of NG 0N G_0 on NG 1N G_1 using conjugation by s 0(p)s_0(p), i.e., for pG 0p\in G_0 and cNG 1c\in N G_1,

    a(p)(c)=s 0(p)cs 0(p) 1.a(p)(c) = s_0(p)c s_0(p)^{-1}.
  • Suppose next that NG k=1N G_k = 1 for k>2k \gt 2, then the Moore complex is a 2-crossed module.


Original sources are

  • John Moore, Homotopie des complexes monoïdaux, I. Séminaire Henri Cartan, 7 no. 2 (1954-1955), Exposé No. 18, 8 p. (numdam)

  • John Moore, Semi-simplicial complexes and Postnikov systems , Symposium international de topologia algebraica, Mexico 1958, p. 243].

  • John Moore, Semi-simplicial Complexes, seminar notes , Princeton University 1956]

There is also a never published

  • Seminar on algebraic homotopy theory. Princeton 1956. Mimeographed notes.

A proof by Cartan is in

  • Cartan, Quelques questions de topologies seminar, 1956-57

A standard textbook reference for the abelian version is

Notice that these authors write “normalized chain complex” for the complex that elsewhere in the literature would be called just “Moore complex”, whereas what Goerss–Jardine call “Moore complex” is sometime maybe just called “alternating sum complex”.

A discussion with an emphasis of the generalization to non-abelian simplicial groups is in section 1.3.3 of

The discusson of the hypercrossed complex structure on the Moore complex of a general simplicial group is in

  • P. Carrasco, A. M. Cegarra, Group-theoretic Algebraic Models for Homotopy Types , J. Pure Appl. Alg., 75, (1991), 195–235

Revised on December 2, 2013 12:33:12 by Urs Schreiber (