Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 September 1999
We introduce the path resistance method for lower bounds on the smallest nontrivial eigenvalue of the Laplacian matrix of a graph. The method is based on viewing the graph in terms of electrical circuits: it uses clique embeddings to produce lower bounds on λ2 and star embeddings to produce lower bounds on the smallest Rayleigh quotient when there is a zero Dirichlet boundary condition. The method assigns priorities to the paths in the embedding; we show that, for an unweighted tree T, using uniform priorities for a clique embedding produces a lower bound on λ2 that is off by at most an O(log diameter(T)) factor. We show that the best bounds this method can produce for clique embeddings are the same as for a related method that uses clique embeddings and edge lengths to produce bounds.