The topological applications of the Cohn noncommutative localization considered in this paper deal with spaces (especially manifolds) with infinite fundamental group, and involve localizations of infinite group rings and related triangular matrix rings. Algebraists have usually considered noncommutative localization of rather better behaved rings, so the topological applications require new algebraic techniques.
Part 1 is a brief survey of the applications of noncommutative localization to topology: finitely dominated spaces, codimension 1 and 2 embeddings (knots and links), homology surgery theory, open book decompositions and circle-valued Morse theory. These applications involve chain complexes and the algebraic K- and L-theory of the noncommutative localization of group rings.
Part 2 is a report on work on chain complexes over generalized free products and the related algebraic K- and L-theory, from the point of view of noncommutative localization of triangular matrix rings. Following Bergman and Schofield, a generalized free product of rings can be constructed as a noncommutative localization of a triangular matrix ring. The novelty here is the explicit connection to the algebraic topology of manifolds with a generalized free product structure realized by a codimension 1 submanifold, leading to noncommutative localization proofs of the results of Waldhausen and Cappell on the algebraic K- and L-theory of generalized free products. In a sense, this is more in the nature of an application of topology to noncommutative localization! But this algebra has in turn topological applications, since in dimensions ≥ 5 the surgery classification of manifolds within a homotopy type reduces to algebra.