Biological nervous systems rely on the coordination of billions of neurons with complex, dynamic connectivity to enable the ability to process information and form memories. In turn, artificial intelligence and neuromorphic computing platforms have sought to mimic biological cognition through software-based neural networks and hardware demonstrations utilizing memristive circuitry with fixed dynamics. To incorporate the advantages of tunable dynamic software implementations of neural networks into hardware, we develop a proof-of-concept artificial synapse with adaptable resistivity. This synapse leverages the photothermally induced local phase transition of VO2 thin films by temporally modulated laser pulses. Such a process quickly modifies the conductivity of the film site-selectively by a factor of 500 to "activate" these neurons and store "memory" by applying varying bias voltages to induce self-sustained Joule heating between electrodes after activation with a laser. These synapses are demonstrated to undergo a complete heating and cooling cycle in less than 120 ns.
Keywords: artificial neural networks; neuromorphic devices; photothermal electronics; vanadium dioxide.