Discrete trace theorems and energy minimizing spring embeddings of planar graphs

John C. Urschel, Ludmil T. Zikatanov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Tutte's spring embedding theorem states that, for a three-connected planar graph, if the outer face of the graph is fixed as the complement of some convex region in the plane, and all other vertices are placed at the mass center of their neighbors, then this results in a unique embedding, and this embedding is planar. It also follows fairly quickly that this embedding minimizes the sum of squared edge lengths, conditional on the embedding of the outer face. However, it is not at all clear how to embed this outer face. We consider the minimization problem of embedding this outer face, up to some normalization, so that the sum of squared edge lengths is minimized. In this work, we show the connection between this optimization problem and the Schur complement of the graph Laplacian with respect to the interior vertices. We prove a number of discrete trace theorems, and, using these new results, show the spectral equivalence of this Schur complement with the boundary Laplacian to the one-half power for a large class of graphs. Using this result, we give theoretical guarantees for this optimization problem, which motivates an algorithm to embed the outer face of a spring embedding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-107
Number of pages35
JournalLinear Algebra and Its Applications
StatePublished - Jan 15 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Algebra and Number Theory
  • Numerical Analysis
  • Geometry and Topology
  • Discrete Mathematics and Combinatorics


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