Envelopes and refinements in categories, with applications to functional analysis
An envelope in a category is a construction that generalizes the operations of “exterior completion”, like completion of a locally convex space, or the Stone–Čech compactification of a topological space, or the universal enveloping algebra of a Lie algebra. Dually, a refinement generalizes the operations of “interior enrichment”, like bornologification (or saturation) of a locally convex space, or simply connected covering of a Lie group. In this paper we define envelopes and refinements in abstract categories and discuss conditions under which these constructions exist and are functors. The aim of the exposition is to lay the foundations for duality theories of non-commutative groups based on the idea of envelope. The advantage of this approach is that in the arising theories the analogs of group algebras are Hopf algebras. At the same time the classical Fourier and Gelfand transforms are interpreted as envelopes with respect to certain classes of algebras.