Sullivan model



A Sullivan model of a rational space XX is a particularly well-behaved commutative dg-algebra quasi-isomorphic to the dg-algebra of Sullivan forms on XX. These Sullivan algebras are precisely the cofibrant objects in the standard model structure on dg-algebras.

Sullivan models are a central tool in rational homotopy theory.


Sullivan models are particularly simple dg-algebras that are equivalent to the dg-algebras of Sullivan differrential forms on topological spaces. Conversely, every rational space can be obtained from a dg-algebra and the minimal Sullivan algebras provide convenient representatives that correspond bijectively to rational homtopy types under this correspondence.

Formally, (relative) Sullivan models are the (relative) cell complexes in the standard model structure on dg-algebras.

We now describe this in detail. First some notation and preliminaries:


(finite type)

  • A graded vector space VV is of finite type if in each degree it is finite dimensional. In this case we write V *V^* for its degreewise dual.

  • A Grassmann algebra is of finite type if it is the Grassmann algebra V *\wedge^\bullet V^* on a graded vector space of finite type

    (the dualization here is just convention, that will help make some of the following constructions come out nicely).

  • A CW-complex is of finite type if it is built out of finitely many cells in each degree.

For VV a \mathbb{N}-graded vector space write V\wedge^\bullet V for the Grassmann algebra over it. Equipped with the trivial differential d=0d = 0 this is a semifree dga ( V,d=0)(\wedge^\bullet V, d=0).

With kk our ground field we write (k,0)(k,0) for the corresponding dg-algebra, the tensor unit for the standard monoidal structure on dgAlgdgAlg. This is the Grassmann algebra on the 0-vector space (k,0)=( 0,0)(k,0) = (\wedge^\bullet 0, 0).


(Sullivan algebras)

A relatived Sullivan algebra is a morphism of dg-algebras that is an inclusion

(A,d)(A k V,d) (A,d) \to (A \otimes_k \wedge^\bullet V, d')

for (A,d)(A,d) some dg-algebra and for VV some graded vector space, such that

  • there is a well ordered set? JJ

  • indexing a basis {v αVαJ}\{v_\alpha \in V| \alpha \in J\} of VV;

  • such that with V <β=span(v αα<β)V_{\lt \beta} = span(v_\alpha | \alpha \lt \beta) for all basis elements v βv_\beta we have that

    dv βA V <β. d' v_\beta \in A \otimes \wedge^\bullet V_{\lt \beta} \,.

This is called a minimal relative Sullivan algebra if in addition the condition

(α<β)(degv αdegv β) (\alpha \lt \beta) \Rightarrow (deg v_\alpha \leq deg v_\beta)

holds. For a Sullivan algebra (k,0)( V,d)(k,0) \to (\wedge^\bullet V, d) relative to the tensor unit we call the semifree dga ( V,d)(\wedge^\bullet V,d) simply a Sullivan algebra. And a minimal Sullivan algebra if (k,0)( V,d)(k,0) \to (\wedge^\bullet V, d) is a minimal relative Sullivan algebra.

See also the section Sullivan algebras at model structure on dg-algebras.


The special condition on the ordering in the relative Sullivan algebra says precisely that these morphisms are composites of pushouts of the generating cofibrations of the model structure on dg-algebras, which are the inclusions

S(n)D(n), S(n) \hookrightarrow D(n) \,,


S(n)=( c,d=0) S(n) = (\wedge^\bullet \langle c \rangle, d= 0)

is the dg-algebra on a single generator in degree nn with vanishing differential, and where

D(n)=( (bc),db=c,dc=0) D(n) = (\wedge^\bullet (\langle b \rangle \oplus \langle c \rangle), d b = c, d c = 0)

with bb an additional generator in degree n1n-1.

Therefore for AdgAlgA \in dgAlg dg-algebra, a pushout

S(n) ϕ A D(n) (B b,db=ϕ) \array{ S(n) &\stackrel{\phi}{\to}& A \\ \downarrow && \downarrow \\ D(n) &\to& (B \otimes \wedge^ \bullet \langle b \rangle, d b = \phi) }

is precisely a choice ϕA\phi \in A of a d Ad_A-closed element in degree nn and results in adjoining to AA the element bb whose differential is db=ϕd b = \phi. This gives the condition in the above definition: the differential of any new element has to be one of the old elements.

Notice that it follows in particular that the cofibrations in dgAlg projdgAlg_{proj} are precisely all the retracts of relative Sullivan algebra inclusions.


(L L_\infty-algebras)

Because they are semifree dgas, Sullivan dg-algebras ( V,d)(\wedge^\bullet V,d) are (at least for degreewise finite dimensional VV) Chevalley-Eilenberg algebras of L-∞-algebras.

The co-commutative differential co-algebra encoding the corresponding L-∞-algebra is the free cocommutative algebra V *\vee^\bullet V^* on the degreewise dual of VV with differential D=d *D = d^*, i.e. the one given by the formula

ω(D(v 1v 2v n))=(dω)(v 1,v 2,,v n) \omega(D(v_1 \vee v_2 \vee \cdots v_n)) = - (d \omega) (v_1, v_2, \cdots, v_n)

for all ωV\omega \in V and all v iV *v_i \in V^*.


(Sullivan models)

For XX a simply connected? topological space XX, a Sullivan (minimal) model for XX is

  • a quasi-free dg-algebra ( V *,d V)(\wedge^\bullet V^*, d_V) which is a (minimal) Sullivan algebra

  • such that there exists a quasi-isomorphism

    ( V *,d V)Ω Sull (X). (\wedge^\bullet V^*, d_V) \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} \Omega^\bullet_{Sull}(X) \,.



(cofibrations are relative Sullivan algebras)

The cofibration in the standard model structure on dg-algebras CdgAlg C dgAlg_{\mathbb{N}} are precisely the retracts of relative Sullivan algebras (A,d)(A k V,d)(A,d) \to (A\otimes_k \wedge^\bullet V, d').

Accordingly, the cofibrant objects in CdgAlgC dgAlg are precisely the Sullivan algebras ( V,d)(\wedge^\bullet V, d)


Rational homotopy types of simply connected spaces XX are in bijective corespondence with minimal Sullivan algebras ( V,d)(\wedge^\bullet V,d)

( V,d)Ω Sullivan (X). (\wedge^\bullet V , d) \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} \Omega^\bullet_{Sullivan}(X) \,.

And homotopy classes of morphisms on both sides are in bijection.


This appears for instance as corollary 1.26 in


(Ω Sul K):dgAlg opKΩ Sul sSet (\Omega^\bullet_{Sul} \dashv K) : dgAlg^{op} \stackrel{\overset{\Omega^\bullet_{Sul}}{\leftarrow}}{\underset{K}{\to}} sSet

for the Quillen adjunction induced by forming Sullivan differential forms, as discussed above.


Let ( V *,d V)(\wedge^\bullet V^*, d_V) be a simply connected Sullivan algebra of finite type. Then

  • the unit of the adjunction ( V *,d V)Ω Sul (K( ,d V))(\wedge^\bullet V^*, d_V) \to \Omega^\bullet_{Sul}(K(\wedge^\bullet, d_V) \rangle) is a quasi-isomorphism;

  • The elements of the homotopy groups of the rational space modeled by ( V *,d V)(\wedge^\bullet V^*, d_V) are the generators in VV:

    there is an isomorphism of \mathbb{N}-graded vector spaces over \mathbb{Q}

    π (( V *,d V))V. \pi_\bullet(\langle (\wedge^\bullet V^*, d_V)\rangle) \simeq V.

This is recalled for instance as theorem 1.24 in


Sullivan mimimal models are unique up to isomorphism.


This appears for instance as prop 1.18 in


Rational homotopy types of simply connected spaces XX are in bijective corespondence with minimal Sullivan models ( V,d)(\wedge^\bullet V,d)

( V,d)Ω Sullivan (X). (\wedge^\bullet V , d) \stackrel{\simeq}{\to} \Omega^\bullet_{Sullivan}(X) \,.

And homotopy classes of morphisms on both sides are in bijection.


This appears for instance as corollary 1.26 in


It follows that if (\wedge^^\bullet V^{*}, d) is a minimal Sullivan model for X(\wedge^^X, then the rational homotopy groups of XX can be read off from the generators VV:

π (X)V. \pi_\bullet(X) \otimes \mathbb{Q} \simeq V \,.


The nn-sphere

Complex projective space

Product spaces

Formal spaces



Sullivan algebras and minimal algebras appear in def 1.10

Revised on December 3, 2012 18:08:55 by Anonymous Coward (