ASTAROTH is a novel R&D project which aims at improving the physics reach of future direct dark matter detection experiments based on NaI(Tl) scintillating crystals.
There is a strong need to test the long standing DAMA positive observation of an annual modulation that could be due to Dark Matter, with the same target material and in a model independent way.
ASTAROTH aim is to enhance the sensitivity to the annual modulation signal, compared to the present technology, by lowering the detection energy threshold, making it possible for the first time to observe sub-keV recoils.
This can be achieved by reading the scintillation light from the NaI(Tl) crystals with arrays of Silicon PhotoMultipliers (SiPM), and placing the detectors in a cryogenic environment.
Indeed, SiPMs feature lower dark noise than photomultiplier tubes at T<150 K and allow for a higher light collection.
The chosen cooling medium is liquid Argon, as it is an excellent scintillator that could be instrumented to act as a veto detector against several backgrounds.
Here we present the status of the ASTAROTH project: we will show the preliminary results of first measurements performed on a single NaI(Tl) read by one SiPM array in a temporary cryogenic set-up cooled with liquid nitrogen. Then, we will introduce the innovative design of the detector chamber that will be used for the demonstration of the ASTAROTH technology, and which is presently under construction and foreseen to be commissioned by the end of 2021.