Decompositions into spanning rainbow structures

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A subgraph of an edge-coloured graph is called rainbow if all its edges have distinct colours. The study of rainbow subgraphs goes back more than 200 years to the work of Euler on Latin squares and has been the focus of extensive research ever since. Euler posed a problem equivalent to finding properly n-edge-coloured complete bipartite graphs Kn,n which can be decomposed into rainbow perfect matchings. While there are proper edge-colourings of Kn,n without even a single rainbow perfect matching, the theme of this paper is to show that with some very weak additional constraints one can find many disjoint rainbow perfect matchings. In particular, we prove that if some fraction of the colour classes have at most (1 − o(1))n edges, then one can nearly-decompose the edges of Kn,n into edge-disjoint perfect rainbow matchings. As an application of this, we establish in a very strong form a conjecture of Akbari and Alipour and asymptotically prove a conjecture of Barat and Nagy. Both these conjectures concern rainbow perfect matchings in edge-colourings of Kn,n with quadratically many colours. The above result also has implications to some conjectures of Snevily about subsquares of multiplication tables of groups. Finally, using our techniques, we also prove a number of results on near-decompositions of graphs into other rainbow structures like Hamiltonian cycles and spanning trees. Most notably, we prove that any properly coloured complete graph can be nearly-decomposed into spanning rainbow trees. This asymptotically proves the Brualdi–Hollingsworth and Kaneko–Kano–Suzuki conjectures which predict that a perfect decomposition should exist under the same assumptions.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-959
Number of pages61
JournalProceedings of the London Mathematical Society
Issue number4
Early online date9 Apr 2019
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019