Atoms release colour when they're excited, and scientists have now started creating their own atoms in an array of colours to help build sharper flat-screen TVs. But how do you create a custom-made atom? The latest episode of The Quantum Around You explains.

Atoms make up everything, and they can even produce some amazing colours when excited.

For example, sodium atoms can emit a beautiful yellow glow that we see in sodium lamps, and barium produces the beautiful green colour we see in fireworks.

But researchers are now engineering "artificial atoms" - nanostructures that emulate the behaviour of real atoms but are designed for a specific purpose.

These artificial atoms are now being used in the latest flat-screen TVs, technology known as quantum dot technology, and are helping to create a sharper image with a broader array of colour.

But how can scientists replicate the natural structure of an atom? As Associate Professor Andrea Morello from the University of New South Wales Faculty of Engineering explains in the latest episode of The Quantum Around You, it's all about understanding the quantum behaviour of electrons.

Just like a guitar string produces a particular note when it's plucked, electrons have specific wavelengths. But in an atom, the positively charged nucleus is constantly attracting them, and limiting where they can move. Eventually this means that electrons can only orbit atoms in very specific energy levels determined by the wavelength associated with the mass of the electron.

That all sounds pretty complicated, but basically it gives scientists a formula to work out exactly how to build atoms in order to create any colour they want.

Watch the episode above to learn more about what causes the energy levels of atoms, and how we can fine-tune them to unlock different colours, and even different functions. As always, Andrea does a much better job of explaining than we do.

Source: UNSW eLearning