The plasma membrane undergoes reversible structural changes as a collective system of lipids and proteins during the propagation of an action potential. Recently it has been shown that 2D compression waves propagating in a lipid monolayer at the air-water interface behave exactly like action potentials, in the complete absence of any protein channels or ion gradients. The remarkable action potential like characteristics such as solitary propagation, electro-mechano-chemical coupling, all-or-none excitation and annihilation upon head-on collision have been shown to emerge naturally from the physics of propagating phase transitions in the form of shock waves in the lipid monolayer. Here, the role of heat released upon transition is explained on the basis of the classical description of detonation waves. It is shown that the heat of transition plays an important role in sustaining the propagation of the observed 2D shock waves and that detonation provides a general mechanism for feeding the energy of chemical reactions into propagating 2D shock waves at interfaces and vice versa.

This content is only available via PDF.