Approximating width parameters of hypergraphs with excluded minors

Fedor V. Fomin, Petr A. Golovach, Dimitrios M. Thilikos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The notions of hypertree width and generalized hypertree width were introduced by Gottlob, Leone, and Scarcello in order to extend the concept of hypergraph acyclicity. These notions were further generalized by Grohe and Marx, who introduced the fractional hypertree width of a hypergraph. All these width parameters on hypergraphs are useful for extending the tractability of many problems in database theory and artificial intelligence. In this paper, we study the approximability of (generalized, fractional) hypertree width of sparse hypergraphs where the criterion of sparsity reflects the sparsity of their incidence graphs. Our first step is to prove that the (generalized, fractional) hypertree width of a hypergraph ℋ is constant factor sandwiched by the treewidth of its incidence graph when the incidence graph belongs to some apex-minor-free graph class (the family of apex-minor-free graph classes includes planar graphs and graphs of bounded genus). This determines the combinatorial borderline above in which the notion of (generalized, fractional) hypertree width becomes essentially more general than treewidth, justifying that way its functionality as a hypergraph acyclicity measure. While for more general sparse families of hypergraphs treewidth of incidence graphs and all hypertree width parameters may differ arbitrarily, there are sparse families where a constant factor approximation algorithm is possible. In particular, we give a constant factor approximation polynomial time algorithm for (generalized, fractional) hypertree width on hypergraphs whose incidence graphs belong to some H-minor-free graph class.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1331-1348
Number of pages18
JournalSIAM Journal on Discrete Mathematics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2011


  • Approximation
  • Hypergraphs
  • Hypertree width
  • Minor-free graphs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Mathematics


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