i would go with nova lasers... http://www.novalasers.com/
they make very good quality lasers, i suggest the x series good price for the power an x85 would probably suit all your needs u can go higher up to x105 if u want its even stronger.
the laser is green it has a bright beam, the mw is whatever the numb is x85 has 85 mw
Green is the most sensitive to the human eye so it will be the brightest. The X-65s from NOVA usually average at about 70-80mW. It's cheap, but also has enough power to light a match when focused. If it has a divergence of 1mrad, the 'spot' should be about a meter in diameter at 1km. Sounds like a lot, but it actually is good. My 5mW green has 0.7mrad divergence and I can see the spot clearly on a white surface at about 250 meters. But of course, more power means more visibility.
I'm waiting on an X-105. I'm planning on reviewing it compared to my 5mW so it should be up soon.
I don't mean to be rude, but apart from assembling a circuit, having an electrical engineer won't help with the actual laser. Unless you REALLY know what you are doing, building a green from scratch it out. It requires a very carful alignment of special crystals and whatnot to covert the light from the infra-red pump diode.
However have you had a look at the DIY DVD Red burner guide? As the diode (~200mW) is all ready made for you (in a DVD-R drive) your brother would be of great help to you with the circuit! + It's a nice project to start with! It will give you your burning power, but you are not going to see the beam, (due to the makeup of the retina)
The blu-ray diodes wont burn. I think they're around 5-10mW max. And, since they are 405nm (NUV), they will be as bright or just as bright as a red. BUT... it is a very rare color to have in a pointer and will make many objects fluoresce. And I agree with Dan; the process of aligning the crystal set makes building your own green laser nearly impossible. Finding the parts is hard enough to do already, and the cost of each individual piece would be horrible. It is much cheaper and faster to just buy one.
But like he said, if you really just want burning power, building a high powered red or even blu-ray for a cool color (they don't need crystal sets) would be easy compared to building green. It may just be me, but I have no problem seeing a 10mW red laser beam at night. It is very faint compared to green but it just visible enough to point out stars. However, my eyes could be different from yours.
ummm i can CLEARLY see the beam of my red, about as bright as a 3mw green.[/quote]
Sorry, I didn't phrase that well.... What I mean to say was mW for mW red looks tons less bright (the beam anyway) than green. So if you had a 30mW Green and a 30mW red: The green beam would be visible, even in daylight; whereas with the red beam, it would be invisible in daylight, hard to see unaided in the dark, but add some smoke/fog, and you're away!
I think the true 30mw green laser on dx seems to be cheap and worth it...its probly something ill use a while and then get tired of (unless they are highly addicting once you get one )....then pick it up again sometime...i personally do not think lasers are worth hundreds of dollars...and also i dont wanna worry about ir and the one on dx has an ir filter..