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A priority queue is an abstract data type in computer programming, supporting the following three operations:

  • add an element to the queue with an associated priority
  • remove the element from the queue that has the highest priority, and return it
  • (optionally) peek at the element with highest priority without removing it

The simplest way to implement a priority queue data type is to keep an associative array mapping each priority to a list of elements with that priority. If association lists are used to implement the associative array, adding an element takes constant time but removing or peeking at the element of highest priority takes linear (O(n)) time, because we must search all keys for the largest one. If a self-balancing binary search tree is used, all three operations take O(log n) time; this is a popular solution in environments that already provide balanced trees but nothing more sophisticated. The van Emde Boas tree, another associative array data structure, can perform all three operations in O(log log n) time, but at a space cost for small queues of about O(2m/2), where m is the number of bits in the priority value, which may be prohibitive.

There are a number of specialized heap data structures that either supply additional operations or outperform the above approaches. The binary heap uses O(log n) time for both operations, but allows peeking at the element of highest priority without removing it in constant time. Binomial heaps add several more operations, but require O(log n) time for peeking. Fibonacci heaps can insert elements, peek at the maximum priority element, and increase an element's priority in amortized constant time (deletions are still O(log n)).

The Standard Template Library (STL), part of the C++ 1998 standard, specifies "priority_queue" as one of the STL container adaptor class templates. Unlike actual STL containers, it does not allow iteration of its elements (it strictly adheres to its abstract data type definition). Java's library contains a PriorityQueue class.

Applications

Bandwidth management

Priority queuing can be used to manage limited resources such as bandwidth on a transmission line from a network router. In the event of outgoing traffic queuing due to insufficient bandwidth, all other queues can be halted to send the traffic from the highest priority queue upon arrival. This ensures that the prioritized traffic (such as real-time traffic, e.g. a RTP stream of a VoIP connection) is forwarded with the least delay and the least likelihood of being rejected due to a queue reaching its maximum capacity. All other traffic can be handled when the highest priority queue is empty. Another approach used is to send disproportionately more traffic from higher priority queues.

Usually a limitation (policer) is set to limit the bandwidth that traffic from the highest priority queue can take, in order to prevent high priority packets from choking off all other traffic. This limit is usually never reached due to high lever control instances such as the Cisco Callmanager, which can be programmed to inhibit calls which would exceed the programmed bandwidth limit.

Discrete event simulation

Another use of a priority queue is to manage the events in a discrete event simulation. The events are added to the queue with their simulation time used as the priority. The execution of the simulation proceeds by repeatedly pulling the top of the queue and executing the event thereon.

See also: Scheduling (computing), queueing theory

A* search algorithm

The A* search algorithm finds the shortest path between two vertices of a weighted graph, trying out the most promising routes first. The priority queue is used to keep track of unexplored routes; the one for which a lower bound on the total path length is smallest is given highest priority.

Implementations

While relying on heapsort is a common way to implement priority queues, for integer data faster implementations exist.

  • When the set of keys is {1, 2, ..., C}, a data structure by Emde Boas supports the minimum, maximum, insert, delete, search, extract-min, extract-max, predecessor and successor operations in O(log C) time.

An algorithm by Fredman and Willard implements the minimum operation in O(1) time and insert and extract-min operations in time.

Questions & Answers

what is variations in raman spectra for nanomaterials
Jyoti Reply
I only see partial conversation and what's the question here!
Crow Reply
what about nanotechnology for water purification
RAW Reply
please someone correct me if I'm wrong but I think one can use nanoparticles, specially silver nanoparticles for water treatment.
Damian
yes that's correct
Professor
I think
Professor
what is the stm
Brian Reply
is there industrial application of fullrenes. What is the method to prepare fullrene on large scale.?
Rafiq
industrial application...? mmm I think on the medical side as drug carrier, but you should go deeper on your research, I may be wrong
Damian
How we are making nano material?
LITNING Reply
what is a peer
LITNING Reply
What is meant by 'nano scale'?
LITNING Reply
What is STMs full form?
LITNING
scanning tunneling microscope
Sahil
how nano science is used for hydrophobicity
Santosh
Do u think that Graphene and Fullrene fiber can be used to make Air Plane body structure the lightest and strongest. Rafiq
Rafiq
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Mahi
what is simplest way to understand the applications of nano robots used to detect the cancer affected cell of human body.? How this robot is carried to required site of body cell.? what will be the carrier material and how can be detected that correct delivery of drug is done Rafiq
Rafiq
what is Nano technology ?
Bob Reply
write examples of Nano molecule?
Bob
The nanotechnology is as new science, to scale nanometric
brayan
nanotechnology is the study, desing, synthesis, manipulation and application of materials and functional systems through control of matter at nanoscale
Damian
Is there any normative that regulates the use of silver nanoparticles?
Damian Reply
what king of growth are you checking .?
Renato
What fields keep nano created devices from performing or assimulating ? Magnetic fields ? Are do they assimilate ?
Stoney Reply
why we need to study biomolecules, molecular biology in nanotechnology?
Adin Reply
?
Kyle
yes I'm doing my masters in nanotechnology, we are being studying all these domains as well..
Adin
why?
Adin
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Kyle
biomolecules are e building blocks of every organics and inorganic materials.
Joe
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Damian Reply
research.net
kanaga
sciencedirect big data base
Ernesto
Introduction about quantum dots in nanotechnology
Praveena Reply
what does nano mean?
Anassong Reply
nano basically means 10^(-9). nanometer is a unit to measure length.
Bharti
do you think it's worthwhile in the long term to study the effects and possibilities of nanotechnology on viral treatment?
Damian Reply
absolutely yes
Daniel
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Source:  OpenStax, Data structures and algorithms. OpenStax CNX. Jul 29, 2009 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10765/1.1
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