What Is Heap as Used in Data Structure?


Scott Campbell

What Is Heap as Used in Data Structure?

In the field of data structures, a heap is a specialized tree-based data structure that satisfies the heap property. It is commonly used to implement priority queues and heapsort algorithms.

A heap is an almost complete binary tree, where each node satisfies the heap property.

Heap Property

The heap property is a crucial characteristic of a heap. In a min-heap, for every node ‘i’, the value of ‘i’ should be less than or equal to the values of its children.

Conversely, in a max-heap, the value of ‘i’ should be greater than or equal to its children.

Types of Heaps

There are two main types of heaps: binary heaps and d-ary heaps. Binary heaps are commonly used due to their simplicity and efficiency.

In a binary heap, each node has at most two children. On the other hand, d-ary heaps generalize this concept by allowing each node to have up to ‘d’ children.

Binary Heap Operations

Binary heaps support various operations, including:

  • Insertion: Adding an element to the heap while maintaining the heap property.
  • Deletion: Removing the root element (minimum or maximum) from the heap while maintaining the heap property.
  • Heapify: Converting an unordered array into a valid binary heap.
  • Merging: Combining two binary heaps into one by creating a new root and attaching both heaps as children.
  • Extract-min/extract-max: Removing and returning the minimum or maximum element from the heap.

Heap Implementation

A heap can be implemented using an array or a binary tree. The array implementation is more space-efficient, as it requires only sequential memory locations.

In this implementation, each element’s parent can be found at index floor((i-1)/2), and its children can be found at indices 2i+1 and 2i+2.

Applications of Heaps

Heaps find applications in various domains, including:

  • Priority Queues: Heaps enable efficient insertion and retrieval of highest-priority elements.
  • Graph Algorithms: Heaps are used in algorithms like Dijkstra’s shortest path algorithm and Prim’s minimum spanning tree algorithm.
  • Operating Systems: Heaps are used for memory management, task scheduling, and job prioritization.

In conclusion, a heap is an essential data structure that provides efficient operations for managing elements with priority. Understanding heaps and their properties is crucial for designing efficient algorithms and solving various computational problems.

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