The concept of knock has been studied extensively in the context of premixed engines, as it defines a limit in terms of efficiency and power production of that type of engine. As the compression ratio increases, the efficiency of the engine as a function of the work extracted from the fuel increases.
However, as the compression ratio increases, the temperature and pressure of the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder also increase during the cycle compressions. The temperature and pressure increase can be large enough for the mixture to spontaneously ignite and release its heat before the spark plug fires. The premature release of all of the energy in the air/fuel charge is almost never desirable, as this results in the spark event no longer controlling the combustion. As a result of the premature release of the energy, catastrophic damage to the engine components can occur. The sudden, sharp rise in pressure inside the engine can be heard clearly through the engine block as a knocking sound, hence the term "knock''. For commonly available gasoline pumps, knock usually limits the highest practical compression ratio to less than 11:1 for premium fuels and around 9:1 for less expensive fuels.
By comparison, ignition delay in diesel engines has not been as extensively studied as SI engines, mainly because it does not have such a sharply defining impact on engine efficiency. Ignition delay in diesel engines refers to the time between when the fuel is injected into the combustion chamber and when the pressure starts to increase as the fuel releases its energy. The fuel is injected into a gas which is usually air, however, it can have a considerable amount of exhaust gas mixed in (or EGR) to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx). Ignition delay depends on the composition of the gas in the cylinder, the temperature of the gas, the turbulence level, and other factors. Since ignition delay changes the combustion phasing, which in turn impacts efficiency and emissions, it is important to account for it in a diesel engine simulation.
The main difference between the knock model and the ignition delay model is the manner in which the model is coupled with the chemistry. The knock model always releases energy from the fuel while the ignition delay model prevents energy from being released prematurely.
The knock model in FLUENT is compatible with the premixed and partially premixed combustion models. The autoignition model is compatible with any volumetric combustion model, with the exception of the purely premixed models. The autoignition models are inherently transient and so are not available with steady simulations.
The autoignition models in general require adjustment of parameters to reproduce engine data and are likely to require tuning to improve accuracy. Once the model is calibrated to a particular engine configuration, then different engine speeds and loads can be reasonably well represented. Detailed chemical kinetics may be more applicable over a wider range of conditions, though are more expensive to solve. The single equation autoignition models are appropriate for the situation where geometric fidelity or resolution of particular flow details is more important than chemical effects on the simulation.