Uncovering Hidden Structure through Parallel Problem Decomposition for the Set Basis Problem: Application to Materials Discovery / 146
Yexiang Xue, Stefano Ermon, Carla P. Gomes, Bart Selman
Exploiting parallelism is a key strategy for speeding up computation. However, on hard combinatorial problems, such a strategy has been surprisingly challenging due to the intricate variable interactions.We introduce a novel way in which parallelism can be used to exploit hidden structure of hard combinatorial problems. Our approach complements divide-and-conquer and portfolio approaches. We evaluate our approach on the minimum set basis problem: a core combinatorial problem with a range of applications in optimization, machine learning, and system security. We also highlight a novel sustainability related application, concerning the discovery of new materials for renewable energy sources such as improved fuel cell catalysts. In our approach, a large number of smaller sub-problems are identified and solved concurrently. We then aggregate the information from those solutions, and use this information to initialize the search of a global, complete solver. We show that this strategy leads to a substantial speed-up over a sequential approach, since the aggregated sub-problem solution information often provides key structural insights to the complete solver. Our approach also greatly outperforms state-of-the-art incomplete solvers in terms of solution quality. Our work opens up a novel angle for using parallelism to solve hard combinatorial problems.