Colin de Verdière graph invariant

Colin de Verdière's invariant is a graph parameter for any graph G, introduced by Yves Colin de Verdière in 1990. It was motivated by the study of the maximum multiplicity of the second eigenvalue of certain Schrödinger operators.[1]


Let   be a loopless simple graph with vertex set  . Then   is the largest corank of any symmetric matrix   such that:

  • (M1) for all   with  :   if  , and   if  ;
  • (M2) M has exactly one negative eigenvalue, of multiplicity 1;
  • (M3) there is no nonzero matrix   such that   and such that   if either   or   hold.[1][2]

Characterization of known graph familiesEdit

Several well-known families of graphs can be characterized in terms of their Colin de Verdière invariants:

These same families of graphs also show up in connections between the Colin de Verdière invariant of a graph and the structure of its complement:

  • If the complement of an n-vertex graph is a linear forest, then μ ≥ n − 3;[1][5]
  • If the complement of an n-vertex graph is outerplanar, then μ ≥ n − 4;[1][5]
  • If the complement of an n-vertex graph is planar, then μ ≥ n − 5.[1][5]

Graph minorsEdit

A minor of a graph is another graph formed from it by contracting edges and by deleting edges and vertices. The Colin de Verdière invariant is minor-monotone, meaning that taking a minor of a graph can only decrease or leave unchanged its invariant:

If H is a minor of G then  .[2]

By the Robertson–Seymour theorem, for every k there exists a finite set H of graphs such that the graphs with invariant at most k are the same as the graphs that do not have any member of H as a minor. Colin de Verdière (1990) lists these sets of forbidden minors for k ≤ 3; for k = 4 the set of forbidden minors consists of the seven graphs in the Petersen family, due to the two characterizations of the linklessly embeddable graphs as the graphs with μ ≤ 4 and as the graphs with no Petersen family minor.[4] For k = 5 the set of forbidden minors include 78 graphs of Heawood family, and it is conjectured that there are no more.[6]

Chromatic numberEdit

Colin de Verdière (1990) conjectured that any graph with Colin de Verdière invariant μ may be colored with at most μ + 1 colors. For instance, the linear forests have invariant 1, and can be 2-colored; the outerplanar graphs have invariant two, and can be 3-colored; the planar graphs have invariant 3, and (by the four color theorem) can be 4-colored.

For graphs with Colin de Verdière invariant at most four, the conjecture remains true; these are the linklessly embeddable graphs, and the fact that they have chromatic number at most five is a consequence of a proof by Neil Robertson, Paul Seymour, and Robin Thomas (1993) of the Hadwiger conjecture for K6-minor-free graphs.

Other propertiesEdit

If a graph has crossing number  , it has Colin de Verdière invariant at most  . For instance, the two Kuratowski graphs   and   can both be drawn with a single crossing, and have Colin de Verdière invariant at most four.[2]


The Colin de Verdière invariant is defined through a class of matrices corresponding to the graph instead of just a single matrix. Along the same lines other graph parameters can be defined and studied along the same lines, such as the minimum rank, minimum semidefinite rank and minimum skew rank.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j van der Holst, Lovász & Schrijver (1999).
  2. ^ a b c d e f Colin de Verdière (1990).
  3. ^ Colin de Verdière (1990) does not state this case explicitly, but it follows from his characterization of these graphs as the graphs with no triangle or claw minor.
  4. ^ a b Lovász & Schrijver (1998).
  5. ^ a b c Kotlov, Lovász & Vempala (1997).
  6. ^ Hein van der Holst (2006). "Graphs and obstructions in four dimensions" (PDF). Journal of Combinatorial Theory, Series B. 96 (3): 388–404. doi:10.1016/j.jctb.2005.09.004.