# Relaxation (approximation)

In mathematical optimization and related fields, relaxation is a modeling strategy. A relaxation is an approximation of a difficult problem by a nearby problem that is easier to solve. A solution of the relaxed problem provides information about the original problem.

For example, a linear programming relaxation of an integer programming problem removes the integrality constraint and so allows non-integer rational solutions. A Lagrangian relaxation of a complicated problem in combinatorial optimization penalizes violations of some constraints, allowing an easier relaxed problem to be solved. Relaxation techniques complement or supplement branch and bound algorithms of combinatorial optimization; linear programming and Lagrangian relaxations are used to obtain bounds in branch-and-bound algorithms for integer programming.

The modeling strategy of relaxation should not be confused with iterative methods of relaxation, such as successive over-relaxation (SOR); iterative methods of relaxation are used in solving problems in differential equations, linear least-squares, and linear programming. However, iterative methods of relaxation have been used to solve Lagrangian relaxations.

## Definition

A relaxation of the minimization problem

$z=\min\{c(x):x\in X\subseteq \mathbf {R} ^{n}\}$ is another minimization problem of the form

$z_{R}=\min\{c_{R}(x):x\in X_{R}\subseteq \mathbf {R} ^{n}\}$ with these two properties

1. $X_{R}\supseteq X$ 2. $c_{R}(x)\leq c(x)$ for all $x\in X$ .

The first property states that the original problem's feasible domain is a subset of the relaxed problem's feasible domain. The second property states that the original problem's objective-function is greater than or equal to the relaxed problem's objective-function.

### Properties

If $x^{*}$ is an optimal solution of the original problem, then $x^{*}\in X\subseteq X_{R}$ and $z=c(x^{*})\geq c_{R}(x^{*})\geq z_{R}$ . Therefore, $x^{*}\in X_{R}$ provides an upper bound on $z_{R}$ .

If in addition to the previous assumptions, $c_{R}(x)=c(x)$ , $\forall x\in X$ , the following holds: If an optimal solution for the relaxed problem is feasible for the original problem, then it is optimal for the original problem.