An impulse turbine has fixed nozzles that orient the steam flow into high speed jets. These jets contain significant kinetic energy, which the rotor blades, shaped like buckets, convert into shaft rotation as the steam jet changes direction. A pressure drop occurs across only the stationary blades, with a net increase in steam velocity across the stage.
As the steam flows through the nozzle its pressure falls from steam chest pressure to condenser pressure (or atmosphere pressure). Due to this relatively higher ratio of expansion of steam in the nozzle the steam leaves the nozzle with a very high velocity. The steam leaving the moving blades is a large portion of the maximum velocity of the steam when leaving the nozzle. The loss of energy due to this higher exit velocity is commonly called the "carry over velocity" or "leaving loss".
In the reaction turbine, the rotor blades themselves are arranged to form convergent nozzles. This type of turbine makes use of the reaction force produced as the steam accelerates through the nozzles formed by the rotor. Steam is directed onto the rotor by the fixed vanes of the stator. It leaves the stator as a jet that fills the entire circumference of the rotor. The steam then changes direction and increases its speed relative to the speed of the blades. A pressure drop occurs across both the stator and the rotor, with steam accelerating through the stator and decelerating through the rotor, with no net change in steam velocity across the stage but with a decrease in both pressure and temperature, reflecting the work performed in the driving of the rotor.