Smash product

For the smash product in the theory of Hopf algebras, see Hopf smash product.

In mathematics, the smash product of two pointed spaces (i.e. topological spaces with distinguished basepoints) X and Y is the quotient of the product space X × Y under the identifications (x, y0)  (x0, y) for all x  X and y  Y. The smash product is usually denoted X  Y or X  Y. The smash product depends on the choice of basepoints (unless both X and Y are homogeneous).

One can think of X and Y as sitting inside X × Y as the subspaces X × {y0} and {x0} × Y. These subspaces intersect at a single point: (x0, y0), the basepoint of X × Y. So the union of these subspaces can be identified with the wedge sum XY. The smash product is then the quotient

The smash product shows up in homotopy theory, a branch of algebraic topology. In homotopy theory, one often works with a different category of spaces than the category of all topological spaces. In some of these categories the definition of the smash product must be modified slightly. For example, the smash product of two CW complexes is a CW complex if one uses the product of CW complexes in the definition rather than the product topology. Similar modifications are necessary in other categories.


As a symmetric monoidal product

For any pointed spaces X, Y, and Z in an appropriate "convenient" category (e.g. that of compactly generated spaces) there are natural (basepoint preserving) homeomorphisms

However, for the naive category of pointed spaces, this fails. See the following discussion on MathOverflow.[1]

These isomorphisms make the appropriate category of pointed spaces into a symmetric monoidal category with the smash product as the monoidal product and the pointed 0-sphere (a two-point discrete space) as the unit object. One can therefore think of the smash product as a kind of tensor product in an appropriate category of pointed spaces.

Adjoint relationship

Adjoint functors make the analogy between the tensor product and the smash product more precise. In the category of R-modules over a commutative ring R, the tensor functor (R A) is left adjoint to the internal Hom functor Hom(A,) so that:

In the category of pointed spaces, the smash product plays the role of the tensor product. In particular, if A is locally compact Hausdorff then we have an adjunction

where Hom(A,Y) is the space of based continuous maps together with the compact-open topology.

In particular, taking A to be the unit circle S1, we see that the suspension functor Σ is left adjoint to the loop space functor Ω.


  1. Omar Antolín-Camarena (, In which situations can one see that topological spaces are ill-behaved from the homotopical viewpoint?, (version: 2011-09-28)
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