The Karnaugh map, also known as the K-map, is a method to simplify boolean algebra expressions. Maurice Karnaugh introduced it in 1953 as a refinement of Edward Veitch's 1952 Veitch diagram. The Karnaugh map reduces the need for extensive calculations by taking advantage of humans' pattern-recognition capability. It also permits the rapid identification and elimination of potential race conditions.
The required boolean results are transferred from a truth table onto a two-dimensional grid where the cells are ordered in Gray code, and each cell represents one combination of input conditions. Optimal groups of 1s or 0s are identified, which represent the terms of a canonical form of the logic in the original truth table. These terms can be used to write a minimal boolean expression representing the required logic.
Karnaugh maps are used to simplify real-world logic requirements so that they can be implemented using a minimum number of physical logic gates. A sum-of-products expression can always be implemented using AND gates feeding into an OR gate, and a product-of-sums expression leads to OR gates feeding an AND gate. Karnaugh maps can also be used to simplify logic expressions in software design. Boolean conditions, as used for example in conditional statements, can get very complicated, which makes the code difficult to read and to maintain. Once minimised, canonical sum-of-products and product-of-sums expressions can be implemented directly using AND and OR logic operators.
|A||B||C||D||Y(A, B, C, D)|
Following are two different notations describing the same function in unsimplified Boolean algebra, using the Boolean variables , , , , and their inverses.
- Note: The values inside are the minterms to map (i.e. rows which have output 1 in the truth table).
Karnaugh map 
In this case, the four input variables can be combined in 16 different ways, so the truth table has 16 rows, and the Karnaugh map has 16 positions. The Karnaugh map is therefore arranged in a 4 × 4 grid.
The row and column values (shown across the top, and down the left side of the Karnaugh map) are ordered in Gray code rather than binary numerical order. Gray code ensures that only one variable changes between each pair of adjacent cells. Each cell of the completed Karnaugh map contains a binary digit representing the function's output for that combination of inputs.
After the Karnaugh map has been constructed it is used to find one of the simplest possible forms—a canonical form—for the information in the truth table. Adjacent 1s in the Karnaugh map represent opportunities to simplify the expression. The minterms ('minimal terms') for the final expression are found by encircling groups of 1s in the map. Minterm groups must be rectangular and must have an area that is a power of two (i.e. 1, 2, 4, 8…). Minterm rectangles should be as large as possible without containing any 0s. Groups may overlap in order to make each one larger. The optimal groupings in this example are marked by the green, red and blue lines, and the red and green groups overlap. The red group is a 2 × 2 square, the green group is a 4 × 1 rectangle, and the overlap area is indicated in brown.
The grid is toroidally connected, which means that rectangular groups can wrap across the edges. Cells on the extreme right are actually 'adjacent' to those on the far left; similarly, so are those at the very top and those at the bottom. Therefore can be a valid term—it includes cells 12 and 8 at the top, and wraps to the bottom to include cells 10 and 14—as is , which includes the four corners.
Once the Karnaugh map has been constructed and the adjacent 1s linked by rectangular and square boxes, the algebraic minterms can be found by examining which variables stay the same within each box.
For the red grouping:
- The variable A is the same and is equal to 1 throughout the box, therefore it should be included in the algebraic representation of the red minterm.
- Variable B does not maintain the same state (it shifts from 1 to 0), and should therefore be excluded.
- C does not change. It is always 0 so its complement, NOT-C, should be included thus, .
- D changes, so it is excluded as well.
Thus the first minterm in the Boolean sum-of-products expression is .
For the green grouping, A and B maintain the same state, while C and D change. B is 0 and has to be negated before it can be included. Thus the second term is .
In the same way, the blue grouping gives the term .
The solutions of each grouping are combined thus .
Thus the Karnaugh map has guided a simplification of
It would also have been possible to derive this simplification by carefully applying the axioms of boolean algebra, but the time it takes to find it grows exponentially with the number of terms.
The inverse of a function is solved in the same way by grouping the 0s instead.
The three terms to cover the inverse are all shown with grey boxes with different colored borders:
This yields the inverse:
Don't cares 
Karnaugh maps also allow easy minimizations of functions whose truth tables include "don't care" conditions. A "don't care" condition is a combination of inputs for which the designer doesn't care what the output is. Therefore "don't care" conditions can either be included in or excluded from any circled group, whichever makes it larger. They are usually indicated on the map with a dash or X.
The example on the right is the same as the example above but with the value of F for ABCD = 1111 replaced by a "don't care". This allows the red term to expand all the way down and, thus, removes the green term completely.
This yields the new minimum equation:
Note that the first term is just not . In this case, the don't care has dropped a term (the green); simplified another (the red); and removed the race hazard (the yellow as shown in a following section).
The inverse case is simplified as follows
Race hazards 
Karnaugh maps are useful for detecting and eliminating race hazards. Race hazards are very easy to spot using a Karnaugh map, because a race condition may exist when moving between any pair of adjacent, but disjointed, regions circled on the map.
- In the example to the right, a potential race condition exists when C is 1 and D is 0, A is 1, and B changes from 1 to 0 (moving from the blue state to the green state). For this case, the output is defined to remain unchanged at 1, but because this transition is not covered by a specific term in the equation, a potential for a glitch (a momentary transition of the output to 0) exists.
- There is a second potential glitch in the same example that is more difficult to spot: when D is 0 and A and B are both 1, with C changing from 1 to 0 (moving from the blue state to the red state). In this case the glitch wraps around from the top of the map to the bottom.
Whether these glitches will actually occur depends on the physical nature of the implementation, and whether we need to worry about it depends on the application.
In this case, an additional term of would eliminate the potential race hazard, bridging between the green and blue output states or blue and red output states: this is shown as the yellow region.
Similarly, an additional term of must be added to the inverse to eliminate another potential race hazard. Applying De Morgan's laws creates another product of sums expression for F, but with a new factor of .
2-variable map examples 
The following are all the possible 2-variable, 2 × 2 Karnaugh maps. Listed with each is the minterms as a function of and the race hazard free (see previous section) minimum equation.
See also 
- Circuit minimization
- Espresso heuristic logic minimizer
- List of boolean algebra topics
- Quine–McCluskey algorithm
- Venn diagram
Further reading 
- Karnaugh, Maurice (November 1953). "The Map Method for Synthesis of Combinational Logic Circuits". Transactions of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers part I 72 (9): 593–599.
- Katz, Randy (1998) . Contemporary Logic Design. The Benjamin/Cummings. pp. 70–85. doi:10.1016/0026-2692(95)90052-7. ISBN 0-8053-2703-7.
- Veitch, Edward W. (1952). "A Chart Method for Simplifying Truth Functions". ACM Annual Conference/Annual Meeting: Proceedings of the 1952 ACM Annual Meeting (Pittsburg) (ACM, NY): pp. 127–133. doi:10.1145/609784.609801.
- Vingron, Dr. Shimon Peter (2004) . "Karnaugh Maps". Switching Theory: Insight Through Predicate Logic. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag. pp. 57–76. ISBN 3-540-40343-4.
- Wickes, William E. (1968). Logic Design with Integrated Circuits. New York: John Wiley & Sons. pp. 36–49. Library of Congress Catalog Number: 68-21185. "A refinement of the Venn diagram in that circles are replaced by squares and arranged in a form of matrix. The Veitch diagram labels the squares with the minterms. Karnaugh assigned 1s and 0s to the squares and their labels and deduced the numbering scheme in common use."
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- Quine–McCluskey algorithm implementation with a search of all solutions, by Frédéric Carpon.
- Detect Overlapping Rectangles, by Herbert Glarner.
- Using Karnaugh maps in practical applications, Circuit design project to control traffic lights.
- K-Map Tutorial for 2,3,4 and 5 variables
- Karnaugh Map Example