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Concept# Dual graph

Summary

In the mathematical discipline of graph theory, the dual graph of a planar graph G is a graph that has a vertex for each face of G. The dual graph has an edge for each pair of faces in G that are separated from each other by an edge, and a self-loop when the same face appears on both sides of an edge. Thus, each edge e of G has a corresponding dual edge, whose endpoints are the dual vertices corresponding to the faces on either side of e. The definition of the dual depends on the choice of embedding of the graph G, so it is a property of plane graphs (graphs that are already embedded in the plane) rather than planar graphs (graphs that may be embedded but for which the embedding is not yet known). For planar graphs generally, there may be multiple dual graphs, depending on the choice of planar embedding of the graph.
Historically, the first form of graph duality to be recognized was the association of the Platonic solids into pairs of dual polyhedra. Graph duality is a topological generalization of the geometric concepts of dual polyhedra and dual tessellations, and is in turn generalized combinatorially by the concept of a dual matroid. Variations of planar graph duality include a version of duality for directed graphs, and duality for graphs embedded onto non-planar two-dimensional surfaces.
These notions of dual graphs should not be confused with a different notion, the edge-to-vertex dual or line graph of a graph.
The term dual is used because the property of being a dual graph is symmetric, meaning that if H is a dual of a connected graph G, then G is a dual of H. When discussing the dual of a graph G, the graph G itself may be referred to as the "primal graph". Many other graph properties and structures may be translated into other natural properties and structures of the dual. For instance, cycles are dual to cuts, spanning trees are dual to the complements of spanning trees, and simple graphs (without parallel edges or self-loops) are dual to 3-edge-connected graphs.

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