Minimum k-cut

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In mathematics, the minimum k-cut, is a combinatorial optimization problem that requires finding a set of edges whose removal would partition the graph to k connected components. These edges are referred to as k-cut. The goal is to find the minimum-weight k-cut. This partitioning can have applications in VLSI design, data-mining, finite elements and communication in parallel computing.

Formal definition[edit]

Given an undirected graph G = (VE) with an assignment of weights to the edges wE → N and an integer k ∈ {2, 3, …, |V|}, partition V into k disjoint sets F = {C1C2, …, Ck} while minimizing

For a fixed k, the problem is polynomial time solvable in O(|V|k2).[1] However, the problem is NP-complete if k is part of the input.[2] It is also NP-complete if we specify vertices and ask for the minimum -cut which separates these vertices among each of the sets.[3]


Several approximation algorithms exist with an approximation of 2 − 2/k. A simple greedy algorithm that achieves this approximation factor computes a minimum cut in each connected components and removes the lightest one. This algorithm requires a total of n − 1 max flow computations. Another algorithm achieving the same guarantee uses the Gomory–Hu tree representation of minimum cuts. Constructing the Gomory–Hu tree requires n − 1 max flow computations, but the algorithm requires an overall O(kn) max flow computations. Yet, it is easier to analyze the approximation factor of the second algorithm.[4][5]

If we restrict the graph to a metric space, meaning a complete graph that satisfies the triangle inequality, and enforce that the output partitions are each of pre-specified sizes, the problem is approximable to within a factor of 3 for any fixed k.[6] More recently, polynomial time approximation schemes (PTAS) were discovered for those problems.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Goldschmidt & Hochbaum 1988.
  2. ^ Garey & Johnson 1979
  3. ^ [1], which cites [2]
  4. ^ Saran & Vazirani 1991.
  5. ^ Vazirani 2003, pp. 40–44.
  6. ^ Guttmann-Beck & Hassin 1999, pp. 198–207.
  7. ^ Fernandez de la Vega, Karpinski & Kenyon 2004