What Is Radix Sort in Data Structure With Example?

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Larry Thompson

What Is Radix Sort in Data Structure With Example?

In the world of sorting algorithms, radix sort is a unique and efficient method used to sort integers or strings based on their individual digits or characters. It belongs to the category of non-comparison-based sorting algorithms, meaning it does not compare elements directly like other popular sorting algorithms such as bubble sort or merge sort.

How Does Radix Sort Work?

The underlying principle behind radix sort is to sort elements digit by digit or character by character from the least significant position to the most significant position. This means that instead of comparing elements directly, radix sort groups them based on their individual digits or characters.

Let’s understand this concept with an example:

Example:

  • Consider an array of integers: [170, 45, 75, 90, 802, 24, 2, 66]
  • In the first iteration of radix sort, we group the numbers based on their rightmost digit (i.e., ones place). The resulting groups are: [802, 2], [24], [45], [75], [90], [170], [66].
  • In the second iteration, we group the numbers based on their tens place.

    The resulting groups are: [802, 2], [24], [45], [66], [75], [90], [170].

  • In the third and final iteration for this example (as there are no more digits), we group the numbers based on their hundreds place. The resulting groups are: [2, 24, 45, 66, 75, 90, 170].

Advantages of Radix Sort

Radix sort has several advantages over comparison-based sorting algorithms:

  • Efficiency: Radix sort can be faster than other sorting algorithms, especially when dealing with a large number of elements or long strings.
  • Stability: Unlike some other sorting algorithms, radix sort is stable, meaning it preserves the relative order of elements with equal values. This property is useful when sorting objects with multiple attributes.

Limitations of Radix Sort

Despite its advantages, radix sort also has some limitations:

  • Data Type Constraints: Radix sort is only applicable to sortable data types that can be processed digit by digit or character by character. It cannot be directly applied to floating-point numbers or complex objects.
  • Space Complexity: Radix sort requires additional space to store intermediate results and auxiliary arrays. The space complexity increases as the number of digits or characters in the input data increases.

In Conclusion

Radix sort is a powerful sorting algorithm that offers efficiency and stability. By grouping elements based on their individual digits or characters, radix sort eliminates the need for direct element comparisons.

However, it does come with constraints related to data types and additional space requirements. Understanding the strengths and limitations of radix sort can help you choose the most suitable sorting algorithm for your specific requirements.

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