Quillen equivalence


Model category theory

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A model category is a context in which we can do homotopy theory or some generalization thereof; two model categories are ‘the same’ for this purpose if they are Quillen equivalent. For example, the classic version of homotopy theory can be done using either topological spaces or simplicial sets. There is a model category of topological spaces, and a model category of simplicial sets, and they are Quillen equivalent.

In short, Quillen equivalence is the right notion of equivalence for model categories — and most importantly, this notion is weaker than equivalence of categories. The work of Dwyer–Kan, Bergner and others has shown that Quillen equivalent model categories present equivalent (infinity,1)-categories.


Let CC and DD be model categories and let

(LR):CLRD (L \dashv R) : C \stackrel{\overset{R}{\leftarrow}}{\underset{L}{\to}} D

be a Quillen adjunction with LL left adjoint to RR.

Write HoCHo C and HoDHo D for the corresponding homotopy categories.

Notice that HoCHo C may be regarded as obtained by first passing to the full subcategory on cofibrant objects and then inverting weak equivalences, and LL (being a left Quillen adjoint) preserves weak equivalences between cofibrant objects. Thus, LL induces a functor

𝕃:HoCHoD \mathbb{L} : Ho C \to Ho D

between the homotopy categories, called its (total) left derived functor. Similarly (but dually), RR induces a (total) right derived functor :HoDHoC\mathbb{R} : Ho D \to Ho C.


The Quillen adjunction (LR)(L \dashv R) is a Quillen equivalence if the following equivalent conditions are satisfied.

  • The total left derived functor 𝕃:Ho(C)Ho(D)\mathbb{L} : Ho(C) \to Ho(D) is an equivalence of the homotopy categories;

  • The total right derived functor :Ho(D)Ho(C)\mathbb{R} : Ho(D) \to Ho(C) is an equivalence of the homotopy categories;

  • For every cofibrant object cCc \in C and every fibrant object dDd \in D, a morphism cR(d)c \to R(d) is a weak equivalence in CC precisely when the adjunct morphism L(c)dL(c) \to d is a weak equivalence in DD.

  • For every cofibrant object cCc\in C, the composite cR(L(c))R(L(c) fib)c \to R(L(c)) \to R(L(c)^{fib}) is a weak equivalence in CC, and for every fibrant object dDd\in D, the composite L(R(d) cof)L(R(d))dL(R(d)^{cof}) \to L(R(d)) \to d is a weak equivalence in DD, where () fib(-)^{fib} and () cof(-)^{cof} denote fibrant and cofibrant resolutions, respectively.


Not every equivalence between homotopy categories of model categories lifts to a Quillen equivalence. An interesting counterexample is given for instance in (Dugger-Shipley 09).



Since equivalences of categories enjoy the 2-out-of-3-property, so do Quillen equivalences.

Presentation of equivalence of (,1)(\infty,1)-categories

sSet-enriched Quillen equivalences between combinatorial model categories present equivalences between the corresponding locally presentable (infinity,1)-categories. And every equivalence between these is presented by a Zig-Zag of Quillen equivalences. See there for more details.


For standard references see at model category.

An example of an equivalence of homotopy categories of model categories which does not lift to a Quillen equivalence is in

  • Daniel Dugger, Brooke Shipley, A curious example of triangulated-equivalent model categories wich are not Quillen equivalent, Algebraic & Geometric Topology 9 (2009) (pdf)

Revised on September 23, 2014 13:18:25 by Noam Zeilberger (