3-flow conjecture

Importance: High ✭✭✭
Author(s): Tutte, William T.
Keywords: nowhere-zero flow
Recomm. for undergrads: no
Prize: none
Posted by: mdevos
on: March 7th, 2007
Conjecture   Every 4-edge-connected graph has a nowhere-zero 3-flow.

Grotzsch proved that every triangle free (and loopless) planar graph is 3-colorable. By flow/coloring duality, this is equivalent to the statement that every 4-edge-connected planar graph has a nowhere-zero 3-flow. The 3-flow conjecture asserts that this is still true without the assumption of planarity.

Jaeger proved that 4-edge-connected graphs have nowhere-zero 4-flows, but very little is known about nowhere-zero 3-flows. In particular, the following weak version of the 3-flow conjecture is still wide open.

Conjecture  (The weak 3-flow conjecture (Jaeger))   There exists a fixed integer $ k $ so that every $ k $-edge-connected graph has a nowhere-zero 3-flow.

Lai and Zhang [LZ] have proved that if $ G $ has $ n $ vertices and edge-connectivity at least $ 4 \log_2(n) $ then $ G $ has a nowhere-zero 3-flow. A similar result (edge connectivity at least $ 4 \log(n) + 2 $) also follows from a theorem of Alon, Linial, and Meshulam [ALM] on additive bases of vector spaces.


[ALM] N. Alon, N. Linial, and R. Meshulam Additive Bases of Vector Spaces over Prime Fields J. Combinatorial Theory Ser. A 57 (1991), 203-210.

[J] F. Jaeger, Flows and Generalized Coloring Theorems in Graphs, J. Combinatorial Theory Ser. B 26 (1979) 205-216.

[LZ] H.J. Lai and C.Q. Zhang, Nowhere-Zero 3-Flows of Highly Connected Graphs, Discrete Math 110 (1992) 179-183.

[T54] W.T. Tutte, A Contribution on the Theory of Chromatic Polynomial, Canad. J. Math. 6 (1954) 80-91.

[T66] W.T. Tutte, On the Algebraic Theory of Graph Colorings, J. Combinatorial Theory 1 (1966) 15-50.

* indicates original appearance(s) of problem.

weak 3-flow conjecture proved

Carsten Thomassen recently (Christmas 2010) proved the weak 3-flow conjecture for k=8.

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