Acta Mathematica

Volume 225 (2020)

Number 1

Rigid connections and $F$-isocrystals

Pages: 103 – 158



Hélène Esnault (Freie Universität Berlin, Germany)

Michael Groechenig (University of Toronto, Ontario, Canada)


An irreducible integrable connection $(E,\nabla)$ on a smooth projective complex variety $X$ is called rigid if it gives rise to an isolated point of the corresponding moduli space $\mathcal{M}_{\rm dR}(X)$. According to Simpson’s motivicity conjecture, irreducible rigid flat connections are of geometric origin, that is, arise as subquotients of a Gauss–Manin connection of a family of smooth projective varieties defined on an open dense subvariety of $X$. In this article we study mod-$p$ reductions of irreducible rigid connections and establish results which confirm Simpson’s prediction. In particular, for large $p$, we prove that $p$-curvatures of mod-$p$ reductions of irreducible rigid flat connections are nilpotent, and building on this result, we construct an $F$-isocrystalline realization for irreducible rigid flat connections. More precisely, we prove that there exist smooth models $X_R$ and $(E_R,\nabla_R)$ of $X$ and $(E,\nabla)$, over a finite-type ring $R$, such that for every Witt ring $W(k)$ of a finite field $k$ and every homomorphism $R \to W(k)$, the $p$-adic completion of the base change $(\widehat{E}_{W(k)},\widehat{\nabla}_{W(k)})$ on $\widehat{X}_{W(k)}$ represents an $F$-isocrystal. Subsequently, we show that irreducible rigid flat connections with vanishing $p$-curvatures are unitary. This allows us to prove new cases of the Grothendieck–Katz $p$-curvature conjecture. We also prove the existence of a complete companion correspondence for $F$-isocrystals stemming from irreducible cohomologically rigid connections.

The first author was supported by the Einstein program and the ERC Advanced Grant 226257, the second author was supported by a Marie Skłodowska–Curie fellowship. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska–Curie Grant Agreement No. 701679.

Accepted 13 May 2020

Published 4 November 2020