I want to compute the reduced row echelon form of a sparse matrix, but RowReduce returns a dense matrix. Is there a build-in function that computes the reduced form as a sparse matrix?


1 Answer 1


The row echelon form of a general sparse matrix is not sparse.

However, there is a certain chance that the row echelon form of a suitable row/column permutation of the original matrix is sparse. This is what direct solvers for sparse arrays usually do when they perform a sparse LU-decomposition.

A sparse matrix:

G = GridGraph[{300, 300}];
A = KirchhoffMatrix[G] + IdentityMatrix[VertexCount[G], SparseArray];

Generating a LinearSolveFunction S that stores the factorization:

S = LinearSolve[A, Method -> "Multifrontal"];

Lower triangular factor L, upper triangular factor U and permutation p can be obtained by

Retrieving the

L = S["getL"];
U = S["getU"];
{p, q} = S["getPermutations"];

The "Multifrontal" solver (here it is UMFPACK that is used as backend) attempts to find p and q such that the factors have small density:





We see that there is indeed quite a bit of fill-in, i.e., the factors are not as sparse as the matrix A itself.

Here you see how the permutations and the factors reproduce A:

Max[Abs[A - (L.U)[[p, q]]]]
Max[Abs[A - (L[[p]].U[[All, q]])]]



So, up to the permutations (and the fact that pivots are not normalized), the sparse row echelon form is U.


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