Paper by Erik D. Demaine

Zachary Abel, Victor Alvarez, Erik D. Demaine, Sándor Fekete, Aman Gour, Adam Hesterberg, Phillip Keldenich, and Christian Scheffer, “Three Colors Suffice: Conflict-Free Coloring of Planar Graphs”, in Proceedings of the 28th Annual ACM-SIAM Symposium on Discrete Algorithms (SODA 2017), Barcelona, Spain, January 16–19, 2017, pages 1951–1963.

A conflict-free k-coloring of a graph assigns one of k different colors to some of the vertices such that, for every vertex v, there is a color that is assigned to exactly one vertex among v and v's neighbors. Such colorings have applications in wireless networking, robotics, and geometry, and are well-studied in graph theory. Here we study the natural problem of the conflict-free chromatic number χCF(G) (the smallest k for which conflict-free k-colorings exist), with a focus on planar graphs.

For general graphs, we prove the conflict-free variant of the famous Hadwiger Conjecture: If G does not contain Kk+1 as a minor, then χCF(G) ≤ k. For planar graphs, we obtain a tight worst-case bound: three colors are sometimes necessary and always sufficient. In addition, we give a complete characterization of the algorithmic/computational complexity of conflict-free coloring. It is NP-complete to decide whether a planar graph has a conflict-free coloring with one color, while for outerplanar graphs, this can be decided in polynomial time. Furthermore, it is NP-complete to decide whether a planar graph has a conflict-free coloring with two colors, while for outerplanar graphs, two colors always suffice. For the bicriteria problem of minimizing the number of colored vertices subject to a given bound k on the number of colors, we give a full algorithmic characterization in terms of complexity and approximation for outerplanar and planar graphs.

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Last updated May 16, 2024 by Erik Demaine.