Journal of Combinatorial Optimization

, Volume 26, Issue 1, pp 109–119 | Cite as

The maximum flow problem with disjunctive constraints

  • Ulrich Pferschy
  • Joachim SchauerEmail author


We study the maximum flow problem subject to binary disjunctive constraints in a directed graph: A negative disjunctive constraint states that a certain pair of arcs in a digraph cannot be simultaneously used for sending flow in a feasible solution. In contrast to this, positive disjunctive constraints force that for certain pairs of arcs at least one arc has to carry flow in a feasible solution. It is convenient to represent the negative disjunctive constraints in terms of a so-called conflict graph whose vertices correspond to the arcs of the underlying graph, and whose edges encode the constraints. Analogously we represent the positive disjunctive constraints by a so-called forcing graph.

For conflict graphs we prove that the maximum flow problem is strongly \(\mathcal{NP}\)-hard, even if the conflict graph consists only of unconnected edges. This result still holds if the network consists only of disjoint paths of length three. For forcing graphs we also provide a sharp line between polynomially solvable and strongly \(\mathcal{NP}\)-hard instances for the case where the flow values are required to be integral. Moreover, our hardness results imply that no polynomial time approximation algorithm can exist for both problems. In contrast to this we show that the maximum flow problem with a forcing graph can be solved efficiently if fractional flow values are allowed.


Maximum flow problem Conflict graph Binary constraints 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Statistics and Operations ResearchUniversity of GrazGrazAustria

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