Here goes my first MO-question. I've just read Lipshitz, Ozsváth and Thurston's recently updated "A tour of bordered Floer theory". To set the stage let me give two quotes from this paper.

Heegaard Floer homology has several variants; the technically simplest is $\widehat{HF}$, which is sufficient for most of the 3-dimensional applications discussed above. Bordered Heegaard Floer homology, the focus of this paper, is an extension of $\widehat{HF}$ to 3-manifolds with boundary.


the Heegaard Floer package contains enough information to detect exotic smooth structures on 4-manifolds. For closed 4-manifolds, this information is contained in $HF^+$ and $HF^-$; the weaker invariant $\widehat{HF}$ is not useful for distinguishing smooth structures on closed 4-manifolds.

Since I am mainly interested in closed 4-manifolds, I have not paid too much attention to the developments in bordered Heegaard-Floer thoery. But right from the beginning I have wondered why only $\widehat{HF}$ appears in the bordered context. So my question is:

Why are there no $^+$, $^-$ or $^\infty$ flavors of bordered Heegaard-Floer theory? Are the reasons of technical nature or is there an explanation that the theory cannot give more than $\widehat{HF}$?

I assume there are issues with the moduli spaces of holomorphic curves that would be relevant to defining bordered versions of the other flavors of Heegaard-Floer theory, but I am neither enough of an expert on holomorphic curves to immediately see the problems nor could I find anything in the literature that pins down the problems.

Any information is very much appreciated.


A biased answer, based on Auroux's work http://arxiv.org/abs/1003.2962.

Auroux makes a connection between bordered Floer theory and an alternative approach, due to Lekili and myself, which is (still) under development, but which should include the $\pm$ and $\infty$ versions. We do have a preliminary paper out: http://arxiv.org/abs/1102.3160.

A general set-up: Say you have a compact symplectic manifold $(X,\omega_X)$; and a codim 2 symplectic submanifold $D$, whose complement $M$ is exact: ${\omega_X}|_M=d\theta$, say.

Key example: $X=Sym^g(F)$, where $F$ is a compact surface of genus $g$, and $\omega_X$ a suitable Kaehler form; $M=Sym^g(F-z)$, where $z\in F$.

Forms of Floer cohomology: There are various forms of Floer cohomology one can consider.

(i) As in $\widehat{HF}$ Heegaard theory, one can consider $HF^\ast_M(L_0,L_1)$, the Floer cohomology in $M$ of a pair of (exact) compact Lagrangian submanifolds of $M$. When $L_0$ and $L_1$ are spin, this can be defined as a $\mathbb{Z}$-module.

(ii) As in $HF^-$ Heegaard theory, one can consider the filtered Floer cohomology $HF^\ast_{X,D}(L_0,L_1)$ of a pair of compact Lagrangians $L_i\subset M$ as before. The coefficients are in $\mathbb{Z}[[U]]$. The differential counts holomorphic bigons in $X$, weighted by $U^n$ where $n$ is intersection number with $D$.

(iii) One can consider non-compact Lagrangians $L_i\subset M$ which go to infinity nicely (following the Liouville flow). These have wrapped Floer cohomology $HW^\ast(L_0,L_1)$, as well as "partially wrapped" variants. Wrapping concerns how one chooses to perturb $L_0$ at infinity. This version takes place in $M$, and (AFAIK) can't naturally be extended to something that takes place in $X$.

Invariants for 3-manifolds with boundary. A basic idea is that a 3-manifold $Y$ bounding $F$ should define a (generalized) Lagrangian submanifold $L_Y$ where $X=Sym^{g(F)}F$, as in the "key example" above. The collection of filtered Floer modules $HF^*_{X,D}(\Lambda, L_Y)$ as $\Lambda$ ranges over Lagrangian submanifolds of $M$ (more precisely, the module, over the compact filtered Fukaya category of $(X,D)$, defined by $L_Y$) should be an invariant of $Y$.

If one is interested only in the simpler groups $HF^*_M(\Lambda,L_Y)$, one can (in principle) determine these by looking at the finite collection of (partially wrapped) groups $HW^*(W_i,L_Y)$, where $W_i$ ranges over the thimbles for a certain Lefschetz fibration $M\to \mathbb{C}$. That is, one thinks of $L_Y$ as defining a module over the algebra $A_{LOT}$ formed by the sum of groups $HW^*(W_i,W_j)$. This follows from a deep theorem of Seidel about generating Fukaya categories by thimbles, adapted by Auroux.

The algebra $A_{LOT}$ is (part of) what Lipshitz-Ozsvath-Thurston assign to a parametrized surface, and the module is what they call $\widehat{CFA}(Y)$. They arrived at it by a quite different route. They don't bother with constructing $L_Y$ itself, only the module it defines. Because they use the groups of type (iii) to form their algebra, their approach only works in $M$, not $X$. For that reason, they only capture the hat-theory.

The great advantage of LOT's approach is its finiteness and computability. Lekili and I do construct $L_Y$. We can guess at finite collections of "test Lagrangians" sufficient to compute the module $HF^*_{X,D}(\cdot, L_Y)$, but have not yet proved that they are sufficient.

  • $\begingroup$ Dear Tim. Thank you very much for your informative answer. Just to be sure that I understand correctly, are you suggesting that the LOT approach can indeed only recover the hat-theory? $\endgroup$ – Stefan Behrens Aug 2 '11 at 11:31
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    $\begingroup$ Stephan, it's usually unwise to say in absolute terms that X can't be approached by method Y. That is my suggestion, but Robert, Dylan and Peter, or somebody else, may prove me wrong! $\endgroup$ – Tim Perutz Aug 2 '11 at 13:09
  • $\begingroup$ You're right, maybe a jumped the gun a little. Come to think of it, I'm actually not even sure what "the LOT approach" is since I don't know enough about the motivation behind their constructions. $\endgroup$ – Stefan Behrens Aug 3 '11 at 13:19

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