Any energy state of an atom, or of a solid, above its Energy state of an atom, or of a solid, when its total energy equals the minimum possible energy for that atom or solid. For solids, this only occurs at a temperature of absolute zero. Individual atoms may be in their ground state at non-zero temperatures, but they will not stay there Click on Term to Read More. For atoms and solids, excited states refers to energy levels of electrons higher than the ground-state energy. Excited states are not indefinitely stable, so the atom will eventually return to its ground state.