We prove the Li-Yau gradient estimate for the heat kernel on graphs. The only assumption is a variant of the curvature-dimension inequality, which is purely local, and can be considered as a new notion of curvature for graphs. We compute this curvature for lattices and trees and conclude that it behaves more naturally than the already existing notions of curvature. Moreover, we show that if a graph has non-negative curvature then it has polynomial volume growth.
We also derive Harnack inequalities and heat kernel bounds from the gradient estimate, and show how it can be used to derive a Buser-type inequality relating the spectral gap and the Cheeger constant of a graph.
"Li-Yau inequality on graphs." J. Differential Geom. 99 (3) 359 - 405, March 2015. https://doi.org/10.4310/jdg/1424880980