fusion category



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monoidal categories

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In higher category theory




A fusion category is a rigid semisimple linear (Vect-enriched) monoidal category (“tensor category”), with only finitely many isomorphism classes of simple objects, such that the endomorphisms of the unit object form just the ground field kk.


The name “fusion category” comes from the central examples of structures whose canonical tensor product is called a “fusion product”, notably representations of loop groups and of Hopf algebras and of vertex operator algebras.

Some of the easiest examples are:

  • Representations of a finite group or (finite super-group)
  • For a given finite group GG and a 3-cocycle on GG with values in (the multiplicative group of units of) a field kk (an element of H 3(G,k ×)H^3(G,k^\times)), take GG-graded vector spaces with the cocycle as associator.


Relation to weak Hopf algebras

Under Tannaka duality, every fusion category CC arises as the representation category of a weak Hopf algebra. (Ostrik)

Relation to pivotal and spherical categories

Fusion categories were first systematically studied by Etingof, Nikshych and Ostrik in On fusion categories. This paper listed many examples and proved many properties of fusion categories. One of the important conjectures made in that paper was the following:

Conjecture (Etingof, Nikshych, and Ostrik)

Every fusion category admits a pivotal structure.

Providing a certain condition is satisfied, a pivotal structure on a fusion category can be shown to correspond to a ‘twisted’ monoidal natural endotransformation of the identity functor on the category, where the twisting is given by the pivotal symbols.

Relation to extended 3d TQFT

Given the data of a fusion category one can build a 3d extended TQFT by various means. This is explained by the fact, see below, that fusion categories are (probably precisely) the fully dualizable objects in the 3-category MonCatMonCat of monoidal categories. By the homotopy hypothesis this explains how they induce 3d TQFTs.


Write MonCat bimMonCat_{bim} for the (infinity,3)-category which has as


With its natural tensor product, MonCatMonCat is a symmetric monoidal (infinity,3)-category.


A monoidal category which is fusion is fully dualizable in the (infinity,3)-category MonCat bimMonCat_{bim}, def. .

This is due to (Douglas & Schommer-Pries & Snyder 13).


Via the cobordism theorem prop. implies that fusion categories encode extended TQFTs on 3-dimensional framed cobordisms, while their O(3)O(3)-homotopy fixed points encode extended 3d TQFTs on general (not framed) cobordisms.

These 3d TQFTs hence arise from similar algebraic data as the Turaev-Viro model and the Reshetikhin-Turaev construction, however there are various slight differences. See (Douglas & Schommer-Pries & Snyder 13, p. 5).


Here are three things such that it’d be awesome if they were sorted out on this page:

  1. Kuperberg’s theorem saying that abelian semisimple implies linear over some field. Finite, connected, semisimple, rigid tensor categories are linear

  2. Some correct version of the claim that abelian semisimple is the same as idempotent complete and nondegenerate. Math Overflow question

  3. Good notation distinguishing simple versus absolutely simple? (is End(V)=kEnd(V) = k or just VV has no nontrivial proper subobjects).

Together 1 and 2 let you go between the two different obvious notions of semisimple which seem a bit muddled here when I clicked through the links.


Original articles:

A review is also in chapter 6 of

The Tannaka duality to weak Hopf algebras is discussed in

The relation to 3d TQFT is clarified via the cobordism hypothesis in

and for the case of modular tensor categories in

For some discussion see

Last revised on July 21, 2021 at 11:02:30. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.